Toronto Pride (Pic: Scott Corman)
In the wake of the murders of members of the LGBTQ community, the Toronto Police has withdrawn from participating in this year’s Pride.
The city’s police department has come under fire amid accusations that it failed to adequately investigate the disappearance of men in Toronto’s gay village over the last few years.
Activists accuse the force of being disinterested because most of the men were of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin. They also said that officers had ignored community fears that a serial killer was on the prowl.
In January, the police finally arrested Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper. He has been charged with the murder of six men.
Earlier this week, Pride Toronto and a number of community groups in a letter called on the police to withdraw its application to march in the Pride Parade, set to take place in June. The festival is Canada’s largest Pride event.
Pride Toronto said the police’s investigations into the disappearances “were insufficient, community knowledge and expertise was not accessed and despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns, we were dismissed”.
The letter noted that, “This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement. We feel more vulnerable than ever.”
Pride Toronto said these concerns could not be resolved in one day by marching in the parade and that instead the police should invest in “shared efforts that focus on deeper dialogue, collaborative action and institutional change.”
Bruce McArthur (Pic: Facebook)
In a statement, Police Chief Mark Saunders said he’d hoped to see uniformed officers taking part in the parade to “demonstrate a shared commitment to progress and healing”.
He agreed, however, to withdraw the application to participate in the event. “My hope is that this move will be received as a concrete example of the fact that I am listening closely to the community’s concerns and I am committed thoroughly to building a better, stronger relationship between us,” said Saunders. “Much more work is needed, of course. But hopefully this moment moves us forward in an important way.”
The disappearance of men from the city’s gay village started in 2010. McArthur’s alleged victims are Majeed Kayhan, 58; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Dean Lisowick, 47; Selim Esen, 44; Andrew Kinsman, 49; Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40; and an unidentified man.