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Toronto Pride Toronto insists no decision made yet on Black Lives Matter demands

Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signs a list of demands from Black Lives Matter to end its sit-in at the annual parade in Toronto on July 3, 2016.

Mark Blinch/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Pride Toronto says no final decision has been made on whether police floats can participate in future parades even though it signed a list of demands set out by Black Lives Matter Toronto during Sunday's parade that included banning police floats.

"We have had, and will continue to have, discussions with the police about the nature of their involvement as parade participants," a statement to The Globe and Mail by Pride Toronto's leadership said.

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto held a sit-in part way through the city's 36th annual Pride parade, bringing it to a standstill for about a half-hour. It resumed when Pride's executive director, Mathieu Chantelois, signed the list of demands.

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He told CP24 on Monday that he did so to get the parade moving at the time and only committed to "having a conversation" about the list.

"My priority yesterday was to make the parade move. We had a million people waiting, including people from marginalized communities. The show and the parade had to go on," he said.

"Frankly, they could have sent me an e-mail and I would have agreed to all these things."

The list had nine demands, which included increasing representation among Pride Toronto staff, prioritizing the hiring of black transgender women and indigenous people, focusing on funding spaces for black queer youth and other marginalized communities – as well as banning police floats in future parades.

Pride Toronto's assent to this last demand drew outrage from members of the city's police services. Chuck Krangle, a gay Toronto Police constable and former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, penned a public letter about the protest addressed to Pride Toronto that was posted to the Canadian Police Association's Facebook page.

"Police officers are significantly represented in the LGBTQ community and it would be unacceptable to alienate and discriminate against them and those who support them. They too struggled to gain a place and workplace free from discrimination and bias," he wrote.

"I do not speak for the police, and I do not speak for the LGBTQ community. I speak as an individual, one who saw his first Pride, only to be excluded from the next. Exclusion does not promote inclusion."

Mike McCormack, president for the union representing Toronto police officers, said officers have been supporters of Pride for years and that it's "stupid" to try to exclude them. "This is about the Pride parade, this is not about Black Lives Matter," he said in an interview on Monday.

"We have been supporting this parade for years, long before politicians and other people. To suggest that police should be removed and not have a float or booths or be allowed in the community space – that's complete and utter nonsense."

He said he was outraged Pride would accept the demands, and suggested that Black Lives Matter shouldn't be allowed to co-opt another group's event. Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, took issue with that stand.

"I can't co-opt what is mine," said Ms. Khan, who is part of the LGBTQ community, adding: "It was never community consensus that police floats should be a part of Pride to begin with. There wasn't town halls that happened."

Ms. Khan said Black Lives Matter Toronto took the position it was given in the parade as an opportunity to open up a conversation about how to make Pride more inclusive for marginalized groups.

Organizers of the parade, meanwhile, say the nine requests will be taken into consideration in consultation with the LGBTQ community.

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"There's a number of [the requests] that are quite reasonable, in terms of how we engage with the black, queer community," said Alicia Hall, a co-chair of Pride's board of directors. And the rest of them, she said, will be discussed – including the role of police.

Ms. Khan said that while some of the items on the list are negotiable, the ban on police floats is not.

Pride Toronto organizers say they will hold a town hall in August to gather feedback about the 2016 festival, and are committed to creating a safe and inclusive festival for everyone, "including the most marginalized voices."

With reports from Eric Andrew-Gee and The Canadian Press

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