The relationship between the Toronto Police Service and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ) community is not broken or fragmented, Chief Mark Saunders told guests at the Service’s annual Pride Month reception at headquarters on June 6.
“If you walk out of here happy, sad or angry, that’s the one thing I want everybody to remember,” he said. “That relationship is very strong and robust. But the promise I am making to you is we now have an opportunity to make it even stronger than it ever was before. I think this is what the exciting part is. Any journey that’s worth taking, you have to go over those bumps. We are going over some of them right now, but those hurdles are going to give us an opportunity to learn to understand and talk.”
The Service has formally celebrated the event since 2000, and members participate in numerous activities, including the weekend parade that attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers from around the world.
The TPS isn’t taking part in this year’s parade after some members of the LGBTQ community had concerns about their participation.
“These are sensitive, complex and political issues,” said Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle. “But let me assure you of the genuine and ongoing commitment of the Board and the Service to supporting all of our LGBTQ members as well as Toronto’s LBGTQ community as a whole. While there are concerns with the community relating to the police, we are dedicated to listening and partnering with the community to overcome those challenges and continuously working hard in big and small ways to achieve the ever-important public trust with this community and, in fact, all communities.”
Pringle said Pride is a significant, powerful and joyful event.
“It is a celebration of love and harmony, of partnership and unity and it’s a celebration of the acceptance of all people, of diversity and of our commitment to the fundamental principles of democracy, equality, inclusion and non-discrimination,” he noted.
Constable Danielle Bottineau joined Chief Saunders in thanking the community for the support they have received in the past few months after concerns were raised about the police participation in the Pride parade.
“To say the last 12 months has left many feeling hurt and angry would be an understatement,” said Bottineau, the LBGTQ Liaison Officerfor the Service. “To say I have all the answers on how we are going to heal from this hurt and move forward, I don’t. But what I can tell you is that I am personally committed, more than I ever have, to help with the healing and so is Chief Saunders and the Toronto Police Service. Conversations have started with Pride Toronto and many other community members.
“There is still many tough conversations to be had and I hope those of you who are here tonight, and those who are not, will work with us in the coming months to move forward and help with the healing. It requires everyone to be part of the conversation. It won’t be easy, but I truly believe it will be worth it and, as a community, we will be better and stronger for it. But, before those conversations begin in the upcoming months, let’s take the time to celebrate Pride this year.”
Since 2009, the TPS LGBTQ Community Consultative Committee (CCC) has been awarding $1,000 bursaries to LGBTQ youth achieving excellence in the community.
This year’s recipients are Andrea Bermudez, Rotish Suresh and Adam Lake.
Bermudez is pursuing history and equity studies at the University of Toronto, Suresh is enrolled at Seneca College and Lake is a final-year sociology student at York University.