Two Rookie City Councillors Are Clueless About Pride's Origins
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Two Rookie City Councillors Are Clueless About Pride’s Origins

But hey, they really love the police!

File photo from Justin Di Ciano’s 2014 campaign.

Some councillors really love cops. They congratulate the police every chance they get, even if it’s to commend them for their “outstanding” work in the G20 debacle. Our cops are tops, they say. Repeating rhymes feels really good! You don’t even have to think about what you’re saying!

Speaking of which, two rookie councillors have put forward a motion to affirm the right of the Toronto Police to participate in the annual Pride parade.

But if you read further, it appears that their understanding of the historic relationship between the police and LGBTQ community is shaky at best and completely clueless at worst.

Neither Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5, Etobicoke Lakeshore) nor Jon Burnside (Ward 26, Don Valley West) identify as LGBTQ or are Black. Burnside used to be a police officer, so there’s that.

The first problem with the motion is that it supports the Police instead of addressing the longstanding tensions that exist between TPS and how they police LGBTQ and Black Torontonians. Failing to examine this context doesn’t provide a way to address the issues. Instead, the motion is solely a blunt political instrument.

There’s an argument to be made that the Police should march in Pride, but this motion doesn’t exactly make it clear what that is. As we read on, the motion isn’t even accurate.

Since the inception of Toronto’s Pride Parade, the Toronto Police Service has worked tirelessly to promote a safe and inclusive atmosphere that has enabled millions of global citizens to peacefully protest their fundamental rights and freedoms without fear of persecution or retribution.

Sigh. There is no other way to address this than to say that in this paragraph of the motion the councillors behind it are either ignorant of history, or hope to rewrite that history.

The first Pride Parade (beyond the Gay Picnics of the early 1970s) comes in reaction to discriminatory and homophobic policing. The bathhouse raids in February 1981 led to a series of protests and action over the next few months, including what is now acknowledged as the first Pride Parade.

Far from “tirelessly promoting a safe and inclusive atmosphere” since the first Pride, the Parade exists precisely because the atmosphere was hostile and LGBTQ Torontonians could not live “without fear of persecution or retribution.” The bathhouse raids were hardly an isolated incident either. There’s the Pussy Palace raid in 2000, or the homophobic newsletter articles published and defended by the Toronto Police Association in the late 1970s.

This doesn’t touch on the history of policing Black bodies in Toronto, and moments of solidarity with LGBTQ causes, like the tragic Albert Johnson shooting.

If you really want to put forward a motion that touches on the intersection of policing, LGBTQ, and Black issues, then a good place to start is by doing some basic research and getting a clue.

The motion will be up for consideration at Council’s next session, which begins July 12. You can follow along on our live blog.