Follow along as we report live from the meeting.
Nearly two months after the city’s annual parade celebrating LGBTQ communities, Pride Toronto has organized a town hall meeting to discuss its future. In particular, the meeting will discuss the role of the Toronto Police in the Pride parade, after former Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a set of demands—including a call to ban Toronto Police floats from the parade—from grassroots activism group Black Lives Matter at the celebration this year.
Since that signing in July, much has transpired. Chantelois did an about-face on the demands, suggesting to media mere days after he signed them that he would not uphold his promises. (In August, he stepped down from his role at Pride for unrelated reasons.) Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, meanwhile, made a plea to Pride for police to stay active in the parade. A letter written by a gay officer went viral. And Black Lives Matter has remained steadfast in its initial demands.
The town hall meetings take place tonight and tomorrow at Ada Slaight Hall, Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park.
- Pride Must Be Political
- Black Lives Matter Held Pride Accountable—and Toronto Should Too
- How Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution Process Works
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Happy Tuesday y’all. Today marks Pride Toronto’s first town hall meeting, on the heels of Black Lives Matter – Toronto Coalition (BLMTO)’s July sit-in. Community members are filtering into Daniel Spectrum. Room is half-full 10 minutes before go-time.
Uh oh. Looks like the Wi-Fi at Ada Slaight Hall is being spotty. We’ll do our best to keep you updated.
I will be dispatching on Al’s behalf! (This is horrible.)
“Ten minutes to start time. The room is filling up fast. ASL interpretation is provided for those in front.” —Al
“And we’re starting! Aaron GlynWilliams and Alica Hall, co-chairs, have taken the mic with an acknowledgment of the land and thanking the venue.” —Al
“We’re just going through a rundown of the agenda right now. Fellow board members are here.
“Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) takes the stage calls ‘cacaophony of different interests’ a good thing.
She says she’s been reflecting on past 25 years of Pride’s progress, mentioning Trans March growth.” —Al
“Wong-Tam on having dialogues: ‘There may be times where it can be very painful.’
“Wong-Tam urges crowd to be respectful, and speak from the heart, not as a member of city council, but as a member of LGBTQ2S community.
“Wong-Tam finishes, met with quick applause. Folks are listening intently as GlynWilliams goes over Pride Toronto’s mandate. Seems like many are biding time for discussions.” —Al
“We’re now hearing why BLMTO was chosen as an honourary group at this year’s parade.
“An standing ovation erupts as soon as BLMTO is mentioned, lasting half a minute and starting a chant.
“‘Let me say comments made misrepresented our organization’s decision,’ board member states, condemning Chantelois’s previous statements.”
“Pride Toronto has put up a list of police groups involved with March onscreen. Murmurs from audience ‘that’s not all of them.’
“Board member says specific questions will not be addressed, but they will be documented and answered on website within next two weeks.”
“Tanya D’Mello is being introduced as facilitator for the evening. D’Mello says decision to facilitate was not made lightly.
“D’Mello says role is not to see it succeed or fail, but to make it safe. She warns things said can be triggering, but says crowd will agree to ground rules to keep each other accountable.”
It’s 7:10 p.m. and we’re officially starting the open mic segment. First speaker from back is Kiera, a queer Black woman who has been out for 20 years.
And Wi-Fi is back! Welcome back, Al.
Kiera is recalling how Dyke March felt more like her space in 90s. Erosion of political content made Sunday march made it feel like an “affluent white gay man’s event.”
Kiera’s two minutes runs out quickly and mid-sentence. Next speaker is Leslie, a Brown Trini differently abled person. They take us back to landmark 90 feminist groups led by dykes of colour.
Leslie suggests that there should be two seats for those 55+ years old. “There are many of us in the room who have paved the way for Pride,” Leslie says, making note of people of colour contributions. “There’s no programming for senior LGBTQ people!” Light applause follows.
Following applause, D’Mello tells crowd not to do it and change how we express ourselves. Some kissing of teeth follows.
Next up is disabled queer woman living on the poverty line.
“Media when you consider what to post tonight, please privileged the voices of non-white people,” she says. Duly noted!
Doug Elliott who headed the dispute process, is reminding crowd of Black contributions, says “younger folks” in room might have forgotten. Oooooh boy.
He says he’s disappointed so little attention has been paid to infiltration from Christian group who posed as “Gay Zombies Cannabis Consumers Association.” Wants measures to be put in place to prevent it.
Noah, white trans guy, brings issue with membership. Two months ago, he had tried to apply but as of two days ago, still pending. Whispers in audience of “Me too! Me too!”
Photos are now loading whoop whoop. Here are the board members present.
Kami, the film maker behind “Pride Denied,” says they’ve been documenting how Pride has taken on corporate sponsors and shut out various marginalized communities.
“You as a board need to really think carefully of how far you’ve strayed from the origins of your mandate,” they say.
Kami on shutting out police floats: This is the minimum you should be doing for all of us.
“Fuck you 52!” is said loudly as a GLA original member brings historical context into townhall with their two minutes. Folks laugh.
“As long as any members of our community are under attack by police, we do not collaborate with them!” People clap him off.
A Black person from Caribbean talks about how symbols matter. Symbols matter to people here and globally. He calls police presence in Caribbean a good thing.
“Please don’t throw baby in the bathwater,” he says. Someone in the background kisses their teeth.
Right now Sage, a Deaf person takes the mic, speaking through an interpreter. They say how requests for interpreters of colour were contacted in Feb by Ontario Rainbow Alliance Of Deaf, but only answered in late June.
“Shame,” several in the crowd say.
Instead of clapping, crowd waves hands w/ ASL sign of applause.
Sage also took offence to the ASL interpreter not standing beside them as they took mic, which Sage hoped they would do for tomorrow’s townhall.
A speaker is being met with widespread jeering from crowd, after he defends Chantelois and says complaint process should have been followed by BLMTO instead. Just as he was about to give his feedkback, his mic was cut off.
“Oh, we’re not playing,” someone says behind me. No, they are not.
“Bye racist, put the mic back down,” an audience member says in the back.
“That was violence!” a voice yells. “And no more!”
Someone near the front stands up.
“As the moderator, I’m going to ask you to moderate the violence here!” They yell at D’Mello.
“So it’s a racism zone,” someone yells.
“When he walked by, he told BLMTO fuck you very much,” someone shouts.
Many are yelling over each other.
“That’s not true! Racism is racism. Period.” A voice yells.
The moderator continues to say that violence is not something to decide by them. Says she can not ask him to leave, but will ask him not to comment again. Many are vocally disagreeing with her.
“If you are unable to deal with racism happening on floor, let us know and we will take care of it ourselves.”
D’Mello suggests security to remove future incidents.
“Violence will not be tolerated,” a person yells, over and over again.
Chaos right now in the room. Two individuals are refusing to budge with D’Mello’s stance, calling for the man to be asked to leave. The entire group claps, a chant of “Leave” begins.
Christin Milloy a white trans organizer chooses to pass her turn for the Black speakers behind her.
“None of you with solidarity and say ‘he is being violent,” a Black person on mic says, addressing the stage. “You’re all useless. Pride was a success despite you. There’s no party for me. There’s no party for us. What the hell are you doing up there?”
The board is silent.
Stomping, hollering, and joyous applause follows that speaker.
A half-Filipino who is “mostly a dyke” takes mic next. They are winning over the room, discussing how Pride means standing up for their community and suggest changing the mission to be injustice-oriented.
Indigenous speaker next. Youth worker, says that they were disappointed for space made available for youth. Safer sober all-ages space Fruit Loops on Sunday for BIQTPOC had their time cut and a venue change.
Exec Director told SOY no funding for more programming, but RuPaul was added to venue. Their talk is peppered with others nodding, saying “Shame!”
Someone from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says they have financially and politically supported BLMTO. Everyone from various divisions have passed motions of endorsement, they say.
“The feeling among our contigent was one of excitement and pride,” they say.
An individual is asking BLMTO to do more promo for intersectionality.
Will say that it seems like a majority of speakers tonight, based on those waiting in line, are white individuals. Most are speaking in favour of BLMTO.
An individual, for whom English is not their first language, says they did not leave homophobia in their own country to see homophobia.
A former homeless Black speaker asks for a homeless youth panel. Short, sweet, but well-received.
Trans organizer Christin takes mic, says BLMTO did more for her than Pride ever did.
<img src=”<font color="1155cc“>http://i.imgur.com/S95yHx6.jpg” width=”570″>
One speaker, a veteran activist, is using her time to thank BLMTO for doing what they did in parade.
She apologized for violence they experienced during event.
Next speaker recounts an incident where he had tried to help a trans woman, who was repeatedly misgendered by police.
A parent is next. They were discussing what their five-year-old told them about parade.
Missing a few speakers, apologies for the delay. Blame it on the wifi and slow fingers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Few that have been missed have similarly put Pride Toronto and corporate dollars on blast.
“Take that ugly mural and put it on the police station,” one speaker says, with many laughing. Following speaker, opens by discussing how Pride Toronto did not acknowledge Orlando mass shooting’s intersectional victims. Latinx community members were not asked to speak.
Following speaker, once again making the point of BLMTO’s intersectional support.
Next speaker, Black queer person, references white man who allegedly say “Fuck you very much/Fuck you” to BLMTO earlier today; says that they would warn fellow BIPOC not to come to tomorrow’s meeting.
Kiera takes mic again. Echoes sentiment that “cis male hatred” was allowed, and that was not okay. Says they’ve had a hard time being patient, when mere weeks after Pride, a Black man was beaten to death in streets by police.
From earlier in the year, our portraits of Black Lives Matter Toronto.
One person mentions Caribana’s logistics “Logical fallacy”, encourages crowd to check out Blackness Yes! and Blockorama, to massive yells of “yes!” from audience in the back.
One person mentions Caribana’s logistics “Logical fallacy,” encourages crowd to check out Blackness Yes! and Blockorama, to massive yells of “yes!” from audience in the back.
A speaker working with a students’ union takes the mic, mentioning how Pride Toronto hasn’t paid Black Queer Youth for their performances and efforts.
A Black individual named “Nafafid” (not spell-checked) is saying they’re grateful for being able to hear all perspectives from crowd. They are wary to applaud or boo this.
“I like a comfortable conversation, an uncomfortable conversation,” they say.
Another individual with SOY (Supporting Our Youth) says that they are in solidarity with BLMTO.
“Talian” (volunteer, unspell-checked) a white individual, introduces themselves but says they shouldn’t have to because they don’t know half of you. Delayed clap for that, as they leave.
Next speaker suggests Queen Park as central venue for Pride events, that would make residents happy. Very speedy mic time, most are speaking under one minute.
A white dyke says police lead pride parade, “in case you haven’t noticed. They lead the parade, they set the pace. I do not like that. I would like to see Black Lives Matter be the honoured group this year.” Many whoop. As you can tell, the no clapping rule has been thrown out the window.
A Black-Mohawk Trans individual affiliated with BLMTO has taken the mic next.
Lightning round of speakers:
Next speaker, self-identifies as “white, straight, and old.”
A Black speaker is saying that they felt “hurt, confused” by Pride Toronto, as a long-time volunteer and someone who knows board.
Last comment of the night is from Syrus Marcus Ware from BLMTO. They take issue with Pride for publicizing town hall meeting as generic.
Things to note: a Torontoist reporter says that they were harassed by a Pride Toronto volunteer or staff who kept telling them to stop moving around taking photos.
“My safety has been threatened by Pride Toronto,” our reporter/videographer is telling another Pride rep.
Pascale Diverlus, Black Lives Matter Toronto:
We got comment from BLMTO’s Rodney Diverlus and Yusra Khogali. Stay tuned for future video!
An audience member named Doug:
We got comment from BLMTO’s Rodney Diverlus and Yusra Khogali. Stay tuned for future video!
Post-meeting, former refugee and Pride Toronto board member Biko Beauttah says that she agreed with a lot of what was discussed by community members.
You can watch the townhall in its entirety at Pride Toronto’s Facebook Live video.
We will have a video with highlights up shortly.
And with that, we bid y’all adieu! Tomorrow’s town hall will take place at the same bat-time, same bat-channel (Daniel Spectrum at 6:30 p.m. basically), with a round table discussion format.
-Syrus Marcus Ware, who spoke last in tonight’s town hall, posted a Facebook open letter on behalf of Blackness Yes! and Blockorama.
-Facebook event details for Wednesday’s town hall.