Joint public statement about police participation in Pride Toronto's 2018 parade. Signed by: Pride Toronto, The 519, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, Black Coalition for Aids Prevention, People with Aids Foundation, and Sherbourne Health Centre.
Dear LGBTQ2S communities and our broader community of Toronto,
We write to you today both as individuals, deeply touched by the violent loss of people in our communities, and on behalf of those we serve in our respective community-based organizations.
It is an incredibly complex and difficult time. The arrest of Bruce McArthur, the alleged serial killer, has added a new poignancy and a new pain to the fears that sit at the heart of anyone who lives a life of difference. At the end of June, we will come together, as we have for decades, and we will be seen. We will rally and rise, but it will be with heavy hearts, as we have not yet begun to grapple with our anger, shock, and grief.
Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Skandaraj Navaratnam, and a man who remains unidentified. These men were part of our communities and so a part of our family. The fact that we did not have the chance to know some of these men as members of our communities speaks to the invisibility and vulnerability that go hand-in-hand with shame and stigma. The disappearances and deaths of Alloura Wells and Tess Ritchie also speak to the marginalization of our communities and the silencing of our concerns.
The individual stories and lived experiences of each of these people were unique. But what they did share was that the investigations into their 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. This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement. We feel more vulnerable than ever.
We recognise steps have been taken to work in collaboration and transparent consultation to understand what we need to be safe. This will not be accomplished in one day. The relationship cannot be mended through a parade. Marching won’t contribute towards solving these issues, which are beyond the reach of symbolic gestures. Our communities live with ongoing, deeply rooted, and historical trauma which has too often been caused by the institutions that claim to represent us . People are scared for themselves and for the lives of their friends and families. We are at a pivotal moment where those who suffer from the deepest shame and scantest forms of support could be pushed further from view, deeper into darkness, and closer to danger as a result.
We request that the Police withdraw their application to march in the 2018 Pride Parade. We believe that our resources are better invested now in shared efforts that focus on deeper dialogue, collaborative action, and sustained institutional change. Only a significant commitment and meaningful action can start the critical work of making our communities safer.
Olivia Nuamah, Executive Director – Pride Toronto,
Maura Lawless, Executive Director – The 519,
Haran Vijayanathan, Executive Director – Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention,
Shannon Ryan, Executive Director – Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention,
Murray Jose-Boerbridge, Executive Director – People with AIDS Foundation,
Hazelle Palmer, Executive Director – Sherbourne Health Centre.