I am a 63-year-old white lesbian who was active in feminist, LGBTQ+, and disabled rights movements when I lived in Toronto from 1979-89. I participated in Pride marches from the early days. I supported and attended events protesting racism.
I support the non-confidence vote in the Toronto Pride committee. I think the Toronto police should not march in the Pride parade this year.
The Toronto LGBTQ+ community tried for years to get the police to take seriously their claim that a serial killer was targeting the gay community. The police investigated in 2012, when Bruce McArthur had killed three South Asian men, and decided there was no serial killer.
They reopened the investigation only after McArthur killed Andrew Kinsman, an employed white man, and even then only because Kinsman’s employed white friends kept looking for him and put public pressure on the police.
Opposing view: Should Toronto police be allowed to walk in the Pride Parade? Yes
I have nothing against employed white people; I’m one myself. Kinsman’s friends deserve much praise for their caring and persistence. They undoubtedly saved many more lives. I mourn all of McArthur’s victims, though. Why didn’t the Toronto police listen for so many years?
McArthur kept killing as long as he targeted only brown and/or homeless gay men. This is exactly the kind of issue Black Lives Matter was pointing to in 2016 when it demanded uniformed police not participate in Pride marches.
Many people of colour do not see the police as friends or allies. The Toronto police force’s shoddy work in the McArthur case gives ample evidence for their view.
Inviting the police back this year is a slap in the face of the friends and families of all of McArthur’s victims, especially the brown and homeless ones.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Police forces across Canada have a long and shameful history of ignoring serial killers who target marginalized people.
When I visited B.C. in 1980, Vancouver Rape Relief was trying to convince the police that a serial killer was targeting sex workers in the city. Robert Pickton was arrested more than twenty years later, in 2002.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is investigating hundreds, if not thousands, of cases going back at least to the 1960s. Indigenous groups, particularly the Native Women’s Association of Canada — not to mention the women’s friends and family members — tried for decades to get police forces to take the disappearances and murders seriously. The National Inquiry may tell us what went wrong, but it still will not solve their murders.
Serial killers know that they are more likely to get away with their crimes if they target people society rejects — people of colour, Indigenous people, women, homeless or drug-addicted people, sex workers, and so on. Why don’t police forces seem to know this?
Rosie DiManno quoted Paul King, “a gay activist of the old guard,” who thinks Pride Toronto has “fall[en] victim to internecine wrangling along other demographic lines.” King sees the controversy as a division between older activists and younger ones who don’t know history: “I say to the younger generation, get your own battleground, don’t take mine.”
THE BIG DEBATE: For more opposing view columns from Toronto Star contributors, click here.
What “other demographic lines” is King referring to? Toronto police ignored the serial murders of gay men for nearly a decade, despite continued pressure from the LGBTQ+ community. Yet somehow this isn’t “our” battleground? Are South Asian, Middle Eastern, and homeless gay men not part of “our” movement?
The non-confidence motion in the Pride executive is not an example of “divide and conquer” or burning bridges, as some critics have implied.
Pride Day grew out of protests against the bathhouse raids by the Toronto police in 1981. More than 30 years later, the Toronto police did not listen when LGBTQ+ activists said a serial killer was among us.
They neither served nor protected us. This is not the time to invite them to march with us.
Karen Wendling is a philosophy professor at the University of Guelph. She has been active in equality-seeking movements since the 1970s.