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Pride Toronto apologizes for ‘history of racism and marginalization’

People from the Black Lives Matter stage a sit-in during the annual Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday, July 3, 2016.

Mark Blinch/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The organizers of Toronto's Pride Parade have issued a wide-ranging apology for what they describe as a "history of racism and marginalization."

Pride Toronto says its "history of anti-blackness" and "repeated marginalization of the marginalized" has deepened divisions within the LGBTQ community.

The organization apologized for this history and pledged to follow through on promises made to the Toronto chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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The group temporarily halted Toronto's Pride Parade in July to issue a series of demands that included more funding and better representation for racialized communities during Pride events.

It also called for a ban on police floats in future parades, though stressed that individual officers identifying as LGBTQ would be welcome.

The parade resumed about half an hour later when Pride's then-executive director Matthieu Chantelois signed the list of demands, but later told the media that he only did it so he could get the event moving again.

Chantelois resigned about a month later amid allegations of racism and harassment in the workplace.

In Tuesday's apology, Pride said community members had made statements that did not represent the organization and stressed its commitment to following through on its pledges to Black Lives Matter.

It also apologized for the fraught history between the organization and some marginalized groups.

"Pride Toronto knew that for many years, the black queer community has had to fight for their rightful place in the Pride festival, fight for space, fight for recognition and fight for support," reads the apology posted on the Pride website.

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"...So, when we received these demands, we understood that they are reflective of a long and difficult history between Pride and black queer communities, but now also understand them to be reflective of our current efforts, or lack thereof, to improve relationships with Pride's black community, and other marginalized communities. For this lack of understanding, effort to address historic wrongs, and repetition of past mistakes, we are sorry."

Pride also apologized for racist statements coming from members of the community, as well as for making members of the law enforcement community feel "attacked and targeted."

Tension between Black Lives Matter and city pride parades were not confined to Toronto.

Activists in Vancouver drew attention after voicing their own request to have local police withdraw their float from the parade.

Black Lives Matter Vancouver said the officers were welcome on the ground for safety reasons, but said allowing them to take part on a float was "insulting" to protesters who made Pride celebrations possible.

The group said local police reached out to have their concerns heard ahead of the festivities and ultimately did take part in the parade.

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