By: Gabrielle McLaren, Editor-in-Chief
Doug Ford, Ontarian premier and gift-that-just-keeps-giving, announced at the start of June that he would not be attending Toronto’s Pride Parade. As one CBC article pointed out, Ford breaks the tradition set by his openly lesbian predecessor Kathleen Wynne, who has marched in Pride as premier since 2013. Spokespeople have clarified that Ford will attend other Pride events — just not the parade itself. His reasoning? The police won’t be allowed to march in uniform.
Call me a sceptic, but I don’t buy the Conservative Party line that the premier is dedicated to “only attending events where everybody is included.” Especially since Ford’s track record with the police is rocky. Earlier this year, Ford was involved in a scandal surrounding his treatment of Ontario’s provincial police. In 2018, Ford axed a piece of legislature called Bill 175 which was set to meaningfully revamp and improve Ontario’s police watchdog system to make investigations more efficient and direct more resources towards crime prevention. In 2014, Ford was served a defamation notice by Toronto police chief Bill Blair while he was still serving as a city councillor.
With that in mind, I have trouble believing that this is about the police at all. Ford, despite his long-standing involvement in Torontonian municipal politics, has never marched in Pride. Not even prior to 2017, when Toronto Pride first barred uniformed officers from marching, a decision which was revisited and upheld earlier this year. Even if he disagreed with the ban, Ford could have voiced his disagreement without turning his back on queer Ontarians. He could have taken a cue from Green leader Mark Schreier, who called this “a decision for the Pride committee to make.”
Besides, whether or not the police should march in Pride is a heavily contested issue, given their historical role in oppressing queer communities, and their ongoing issues surrounding racial profiling and police brutality. Toronto’s queer community in particular has a strenuous relationship with its police force given the recent conviction of Bruce McArthur, a man guilty of eight first-degree murders over the course of 10 years in Toronto’s Village. The queer community says he could and should have been caught sooner, had police actively responded to public concerns.
Politicians aiming to be allies need to acknowledge these realities. Boycotting Pride is not nearly as useful as facilitating and searching for concrete ways to help rebuild trust and relationships between police and oppressed groups.
Unless Ford has to choose between the police or Ontario’s LGBTQ+ community, it’s clear that he doesn’t care about law enforcement officials. With this flimsy excuse, Ford joins the ranks of leaders such as federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who provide superficial reasons, if any, to not march in Pride parades to avoid admitting straight up that they’re afraid of the gay cooties. Veiled languages and convoluting issues do not excuse politicians from refusing to make their beliefs publicly transparent.