Emma Teitel: Pride police ban gives Ford a convenient excuse not to march
In 2016, when Black Lives Matter staged a protest at Toronto’s LGBT Pride parade, complete with colourful smoke bombs and a series of demands — the most notorious one being the elimination of police floats from the event — every queer person I knew had an opinion.
They ranged from “Why can’t we all just get along?” to “Let’s get critical, our Pride is political!” A spineless moderate, I landed somewhere in the middle.
In this newspaper, I proposed a compromise. Rather than ban police floats from the parade, I suggested, Pride Toronto could drastically reduce its (then) extremely high police participation to a single float. As it stood there were so many officers from different jurisdictions marching in the event, no one could blame an uninitiated passerby if he assumed it was a day dedicated exclusively to law enforcement. Why not reduce police participation to one float carrying a handful of LGBT cops who have deep ties to the Church and Wellesley village?
But no matter where I stood on the policing issue and where my peers stood, we all had and have one thing in common: a horse in the race. We belonged to the community directly impacted by the 2016 protest.
This is why some of us were quite surprised to discover that BLM’s actions wounded a group of people we had no idea cared so deeply about the fate of LGBTQ pride — a group of people I had never seen at the event before, nor around the Village, unless of course they were in drag and I simply didn’t recognize them: Canada’s conservative pundit class.
The way heterosexual conservative pundits went on in 2016 and continue to go on today about how absolutely wonderful Pride was, until those pesky BLM people showed up and ruined the thing with all their unreasonable demands, you’d think gay pride was as dear to them as Christmas morning.
The single most prevalent argument bemoaning the “bully” tactics of BLM? Toronto’s pride parade had always prided itself as a festival of inclusiveness, which meant it should include everyone, law enforcement, too.
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No one celebrating Pride — civilian reveller or uniformed officer — should feel unsafe or be excluded from the parade. If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. Every pride month since 2016, this same argument is recycled on social media by right-leaning commentators who appear to have zero interest in the LGBTQ community beyond its relationship to Toronto police — or its alleged brainwashing of children into a life of forced gender bending. (The rare exception to this rule came in the form of a recent column in the National Post by gay Toronto journalist Josh Dehaas who vehemently opposes Black Lives Matter’s influence at Pride.)
Of course pundits and political leaders are free to pontificate about anything they like. But what makes the uproar about the police ban particularly rich is the extreme unlikelihood that any of the mostly heterosexual conservative commenters on this issue genuinely want to attend the event whose sanctity they claim to wish to restore.
Perhaps the richest example of this paradox is premier-designate Doug Ford. This month, Ford suggested on live TV that he would attend Pride on the condition that Toronto police are granted permission to participate in uniform again. “Yeah, I really look forward to Pride and having our police back into the parade and being inclusive,” he told CP24.
The premier-designate may appear to lament the exclusion of police but, in reality, the ban is maybe one of the best things that’s ever happened to him. Because let’s be real, the guy probably doesn’t want to go. And now he won’t have to.
Ford can retreat to his cottage (as his late brother did on Pride weekends) and have a tall can stress-free because he knows Toronto Pride won’t budge on the police issue anytime soon.
After all, there is arguably more reason in 2018 for activists to oppose uniformed police presence at the parade than there was in 2016 — what with the tragic death of Tess Richey in Toronto’s gay village last year, a young woman whose murder investigation has resulted in charges of misconduct being laid against two cops. Not to mention the ill will felt by many community members who believe police didn’t take their warnings seriously enough about a serial killer targeting gay men in the village.
Not to mention the ill will felt by many community members who believe police didn’t take their warnings seriously enough about a serial killer targeting gay men in the village.
Police bans at pride parades give right-wing leaders who rely on the support of social conservatives a convenient excuse to skip an event neither they nor their bases approve of. This one allows Ford to have his cake and eat it, too. He can decline an invitation to a party he’d likely rather not attend and he can appear principled doing it.
Meanwhile the social conservatives who helped elect him on a platform that includes scrapping the first LGBTQ-friendly sex-ed curriculum in the history of the province will be delighted.
And Canada’s conservative pundits will commend their new premier for working hard to restore the spirit of inclusivity to a celebration they wouldn’t be caught dead at.