In an unprecedented victory for Canada’s largest chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Toronto's Pride Parade agreed to major changes to the festival in the future after the activist group staged a sit-in at Sunday’s parade.
Members of BLM TO bought the procession to a standstill for nearly 30 minutes Sunday when dozens sat down in the middle of the parade route, chanting their demands. The parade resumed when Pride Toronto’s director, Mathieu Chantelois, signed a document that agreed to these demands.
Among the demands is the exlusion of parade floats manned by police, hiring more Black and trans women and Indigenous people and increasing funding for marginalized populations including South Asians and queer Black youth.
“It was not just Black folk who saw a need for our demands,” BLM TO co-founder Pascale Diverlus told The Huffington Post Canada.
The list of reforms has sparked an outcry, mostly from white Pride participants who support the police float. But as Diverlus explained, “Police are a group of people who have brought so much trauma and so much violence to our community.”
Black people in Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are routinely subjected to racial profiling and their communities are over-policed when compared to the rest of the population.
In fact, the group has resisted police surveillance of Black communities, with their #BLMTOtentcity protests in recent months, which was a two-week occupation of the plaza outside the Toronto Police Headquarters in response to the death of Sudanese immigrant Andrew Loku by an unnamed Toronto cop.
This year's parade was led by an honorary BLM TO contingent and members used the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the Black people that have felt marginalized by the city’s Pride Parade. The Black Lives Matter movement was created by three queer Black women in the U.S. and its chapters across North America have always centered the experiences of Black LGBTQ youth.
"It's always the appropriate time to make sure folks know about the marginalization of Black people, of Black queer youth, Black trans youth, of Black trans people," another co-founder of BLM TO, Alexandra Williams, told CBC.
Pride Toronto, in response to the sit-in, has said that they are willing to continue the conversation with BLM TO.
"During the parade, BLM TO started a conversation with us to explore how we can create an even more inclusive and safe festival,” the organization told CBC. “We, like BLM TO have a commitment to ensure our most marginalized communities feel safe and welcome at the festival."