Pride Toronto Town Hall Liveblog: How the Organization Plans to Handle Police Presence at the Parade




Pride Toronto Town Hall Liveblog: How the Organization Plans to Handle Police Presence at the Parade

Follow along as we report live from the meeting.

Black Lives Matter at the Pride parade in 2016. Photo courtesy of Pride Toronto/Flickr.

Black Lives Matter at the Pride parade in 2016. Photo courtesy of Pride Toronto/Flickr.

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.


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Al Donato August 30, 20166:23 pm

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.

Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:38 pm

Uh oh. Looks like the Wi-Fi at Ada Slaight Hall is being spotty. We’ll do our best to keep you updated.

Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:40 pm

I will be dispatching on Al’s behalf! (This is horrible.)

“Very spotty Wi-Fi and jamming cell phone signals, much to the chagrin of your humble reporter and a few nearby Pokémon Go players.”
Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:42 pm

“Ten minutes to start time. The room is filling up fast. ASL interpretation is provided for those in front.” —Al

Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:48 pm

“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

Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:53 pm

“We’re just going through a rundown of the agenda right now. Fellow board members are here.

“‘All of us are here to listen to what you have to say,’ GlynWilliams says.” —Al
Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:55 pm

“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

Erica Lenti August 30, 20166:56 pm

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

Erica Lenti August 30, 20167:05 pm

“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.”

Erica Lenti August 30, 20167:08 pm

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.”

Erica Lenti August 30, 20167:09 pm

Tanya D’Mello is being introduced as facilitator for the evening. D’Mello says decision to facilitate was not made lightly.

“She identifies as ‘cis female person’ first to state her identity. Helpful for crowd to know what pronouns those onstage are using.”
Erica Lenti August 30, 20167:09 pm

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.”

Al Donato August 30, 20167:11 pm

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.

Erica Lenti August 30, 20167:11 pm

And Wi-Fi is back! Welcome back, Al.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:12 pm

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.”

Al Donato August 30, 20167:14 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:15 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:16 pm

Following applause, D’Mello tells crowd not to do it and change how we express ourselves. Some kissing of teeth follows.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:17 pm

Next up is disabled queer woman living on the poverty line.

“If parade halted by a broken down truck, you would not see the level of vitrol,” she says. Someone shouts out, “True!”
Al Donato August 30, 20167:18 pm

“Media when you consider what to post tonight, please privileged the voices of non-white people,” she says. Duly noted!

Al Donato August 30, 20167:18 pm

Doug Elliott who headed the dispute process, is reminding crowd of Black contributions, says “younger folks” in room might have forgotten. Oooooh boy.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:20 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:21 pm

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!”

Al Donato August 30, 20167:22 pm

Photos are now loading whoop whoop. Here are the board members present.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:25 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:26 pm

“Fuck you 52!” is said loudly as a GLA original member brings historical context into townhall with their two minutes. Folks laugh.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:28 pm

“As long as any members of our community are under attack by police, we do not collaborate with them!” People clap him off.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:30 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:32 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:33 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:36 pm

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!”

Al Donato August 30, 20167:39 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:40 pm

“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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:42 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:44 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:47 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:49 pm

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!”

Al Donato August 30, 20167:51 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20167:59 pm
A variety of perspectives are being emphasized tonight. Along with the importance of Blackness, accessibility has cropped up repeatedly, with CUPE representative saying port-a-potties for paradegoers with disabilities were needed.
Next speaker, a visibly white individual, endorses police presence in parade as “sign of progress.”
Signs by audience members are held up in response.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:01 pm

An individual is asking BLMTO to do more promo for intersectionality.

“What?” an exasperated audience member says near me. Scattered and confused applause follows.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:03 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:08 pm

An individual, for whom English is not their first language, says they did not leave homophobia in their own country to see homophobia.

Next speaker: a Black individual named Christopher who makes a rousing speech decrying Pride Toronto. He calls on those who are Black, People of Colour, and Trans to stand and raise their hands if targeted by police. A few on the board do.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:09 pm

A former homeless Black speaker asks for a homeless youth panel. Short, sweet, but well-received.

He also adds that folks shouldn’t boo, noting a couple had booed behind him.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:16 pm

Trans organizer Christin takes mic, says BLMTO did more for her than Pride ever did.

“Normally, having ED problems is nothing to be ashamed of,” she says.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:17 pm
Board members who stood up.

<img src=”<font color="1155cc“>” width=”570″>

Al Donato August 30, 20168:20 pm
A white speaker is calling for police to continue their presence. Says within Pride Toronto’s group not to tolerate “aggressive behaviour.”
She is instantly shut down by Black community members.
“You mean Black people?” someone nearby says.
David Hains August 30, 20168:20 pm

Al Donato August 30, 20168:22 pm

One speaker, a veteran activist, is using her time to thank BLMTO for doing what they did in parade.

“What they did was bring spirit of politics back into parade,” she says, as crowd cheers.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:24 pm

She apologized for violence they experienced during event.

I want this townhall to take position, one that we support all demands — mass clapping — two we apologize for any participation among queer, poc, white queers who has participated in the violence you have experienced in the wake of your incredible work.”
She asks if the crowd agrees.
A resounding collective: “YES.”
Al Donato August 30, 20168:29 pm

Next speaker recounts an incident where he had tried to help a trans woman, who was repeatedly misgendered by police.

Following him, a sex workers rights volunteer takes mic. They say police have endangered sex workers, as a particular issue for PrideTO. Sex workers rights are intrinsically linked, saying how many queer and trans people turn to sex work as a means for survival.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:32 pm

A parent is next. They were discussing what their five-year-old told them about parade.

She recounts BLMTO’s sit-in. “As an African-Carribean woman, it was interesting to me… standing in parade for about 20 minutes and wondering “what is going on? why is there such a huge fuss?'”
At first, she was annoyed. Then she said, she did her research, realized why they did.
“I say, as myself, who is raising a young boy, I will support them. Thank you [BLMTO] for helping me realize my rights,” she says.
She calls for those making hateful comments and saying All Lives Matter to “do their research.”
Al Donato August 30, 20168:34 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:36 pm

“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.

“How many of you were able to pronounce those names correctly?” they ask. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
No response from board.
They list various Latinx organization in Toronto, who are struggling but are making room for elders.
“Step up your fucking game,” they say, ending their time on mic.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:38 pm

Following speaker, once again making the point of BLMTO’s intersectional support.

“Put your money where your inclusivity mouth is,” they say, addressing the board. “There are lives at stake here. Black lives.”
Al Donato August 30, 20168:39 pm
Board members who stood up.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:40 pm

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.

If this is the convo that is going to continue to happen… there needs to be work on making safer spaces,” they say, calling for accountability. “Someone can’t say, ‘fuck everyone that’s here.'”
Al Donato August 30, 20168:41 pm

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.

“I’m having a hard time when police gyrating with guns on their float are being seen as a symbol of hope,” they say.

David Hains August 30, 20168:42 pm

From earlier in the year, our portraits of Black Lives Matter Toronto.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:43 pm
Tensions are high in the crowd, as open mic continues.
An older, male-appearing person in a pink hat in crowd is making pshhing sounds and muttering under his breath. Black woman nearby, asks him what he said.
He derisively is saying, “no progress has happened?”
She questions him to repeat, he waves a hand away from her.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:44 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:46 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:46 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:48 pm

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.

Says “if you got something shitty to say, say it! I may have to come for you after. I can’t speak to the fuck BLMTO comment… his concerns, is a different thing.”
Al Donato August 30, 20168:48 pm

“I like a comfortable conversation, an uncomfortable conversation,” they say.

12 minutes left, D’Mello tells crowd.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:50 pm

Another individual with SOY (Supporting Our Youth) says that they are in solidarity with BLMTO.

“The communities have known very well what they wanted. Where Fruit Loops was going to be, where Black Queer Youth was going to be, but Pride Toronto thought they knew better,” they say. “For those who can’t handle disruption, Pride Toronto has already had disruptions.”
Al Donato August 30, 20168:51 pm

“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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:52 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:53 pm

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.

Al Donato August 30, 20168:55 pm

A Black-Mohawk Trans individual affiliated with BLMTO has taken the mic next.

“This is not a small little wound. This is four of five hundred years of bullshit … the savagery we have had to endure, and are enduring … when I walk out the door, experiencing [anti-blackness] and homophobia at the same time, y’all know what that feels like?
This is long y’all. We’re tired. You think we wanna be stopping that parade? No.” They end their time, to widespread stomping and cheers.
Al Donato August 30, 20168:58 pm

Lightning round of speakers:

1. Someone asks if public will see end of Chantelois’ investigation, “even though he didn’t want to fucking participate in it.”
2. A Black woman says “I have never experienced racism, have only seen it on TV.” She recounts how cops have been short with her. She says she’s not saying police aren’t ok, since there are black queer and white queer police, notes that history of pride, police were main problem. She thanks BLMTO before leaving.
Al Donato August 30, 20169:01 pm

Next speaker, self-identifies as “white, straight, and old.”

Says people don’t understand fundamental respect.
“We’re all the same, we have all got to remember that,” he says, which ain’t ringing right to some in the crowd.
“With respect to police, they’re our servants. But when the servants become masters, it becomes a dictatorship.”
He’s saying BLMTO matters more than white, saying that we should get all “people like me” to understand that.
He’s confusing the crowd a bit. Anti-police sentiment has been well-received the whole night, but his cadence is perplexing for many.
Al Donato August 30, 20169:02 pm

A Black speaker is saying that they felt “hurt, confused” by Pride Toronto, as a long-time volunteer and someone who knows board.

“I really struggled with wanting to be a part of Pride … with what I see and hear of conflicts within the board,” they say.
Al Donato August 30, 20169:06 pm

Last comment of the night is from Syrus Marcus Ware from BLMTO. They take issue with Pride for publicizing town hall meeting as generic.

“We’re talking for Blackness for two hours … you’ve had very particular people speak on behalf of organization, tomorrow should clarify information and those slides,” Ware says, in reference to “Town Hall Meetings” slide projected onstage.
“We all know we don’t have to be here. We built something so beautiful. We’re giving you the gift of our time, the gift of our brilliance,” they say.
Al Donato August 30, 20169:07 pm
And that’s it! With a quick word of ending from D’Mello, the town hall has ended abruptly.

Thanks for following along! If you’d like to see tweets, livetweeter named Stefan has been very thorough. Daily Xtra has also done their fair share of tweeting, with a good ear for name attribution.
Al Donato August 30, 20169:09 pm

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.

We’ll be taking this liveblog outside for some quick hits with audience members.
Al Donato August 30, 20169:11 pm

“My safety has been threatened by Pride Toronto,” our reporter/videographer is telling another Pride rep.

Al Donato August 30, 20169:51 pm

Pascale Diverlus, Black Lives Matter Toronto:

“The community spoke overwhelming in favour. They shared their piece. I’m hopeful that Pride will listen finally. Most were reiterating what Black folks have been saying for years.”
Al Donato August 30, 20169:59 pm
Our reporter and board member Alica Hall have spoken. Our reporter says this is not the first time “Pride Toronto has tried to obstruct me from doing journalism at their meetings.” Just another day in the life.

We got comment from BLMTO’s Rodney Diverlus and Yusra Khogali. Stay tuned for future video!

Al Donato August 30, 201610:01 pm

An audience member named Doug:

“Passionate, net good. Thought the moderator handled it very well, even if I didn’t agree with everything they called.”
Al Donato August 30, 201610:05 pm
Our reporter spoke with board member Alica Hall. Our reporter says this is not the first time “Pride Toronto has tried to obstruct me from doing journalism at their meetings.” Just another day in the life.

We got comment from BLMTO’s Rodney Diverlus and Yusra Khogali. Stay tuned for future video!

Al Donato August 30, 201610:06 pm

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.

When asked who should be the next executive director, she says it’s time for a trans person of colour.
Al Donato August 30, 201610:17 pm


-room was staunchly pro-BLMTO, across a variety of cultural backgrounds, races, languages, and ages.
-a multitude of intersectional concerns with Pride Toronto were raised. Chief among them: anti-blackness, ableism a lack of ASL interpreters. How police affect sex workers and trans folks was highlighted too.
-What a safer space is has a different definition for Pride Toronto’s moderator versus Black community members, who called for those who expressed anti-blackness verbally to be removed from the space. Ground rules (no booing, speak slowly, no clapping) were mostly ignored. Mic time of two minutes was allocated fairly, with Deaf speakers getting four minutes.
-Pride Toronto’s Alica Hall said that PT was misrepresented by former executive director Matthieu Chantelois’ statements to media that the organization would not follow through with demands, but that a dispute resolution process would ultimately determine how Pride Toronto officially deals with BLMTO. Also stated that in following weeks, Pride Toronto would post answers to some questions raised, all which are being recorded, on their site.
Al Donato August 30, 201610:20 pm

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.

Al Donato August 31, 201612:40 am

Post-mortem links:

-Syrus Marcus Ware, who spoke last in tonight’s town hall, posted a Facebook open letter on behalf of Blackness Yes! and Blockorama.

Our story on how the Pride Toronto dispute resolution process works.

-Facebook event details for Wednesday’s town hall.