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Pride Toronto Apologizes to Black Lives Matter Toronto for 'History of Anti-Blackness'

But BLMTO says it wants to see action.

by Manisha Krishnan
Sep 20 2016, 7:30pm

Black Lives Matter Toronto stages a protest during July's Pride Parade. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

More than two months after Black Lives Matter Toronto halted the city's pride parade to protest racism within the LGBTQ community, Pride Toronto has issued a public apology.

In a statement posted to its website Monday, pride's board of directors apologized "emphatically and unreservedly for its role in deepening the divisions in our community, for a history of anti-blackness and repeated marginalization of the marginalized within our community that our organization has continued."

During the protest, BLMTO handed pride a list of demands including banning cops in uniform from marching in future parades, increased funding for Blockorama (a party for LGBTQ people of color), space and funding for Queer Black Youth, and a commitment to increase representation of people of color on staff.

Pride Toronto executive director at the time, Mathieu Chantelois, initially signed a commitment to meet the demands but later backtracked and said he only did so to get the parade moving. Chatelois has since quit amid allegations of racism, sexism, and sexual harassment.

The organization then held two town hall meetings, where racism was discussed.

"There has been an unbelievable amount of racism expressed by members of our community through this organization," said Monday's statement from the board of directors.

It also noted that in selecting BLMTO to lead the parade as the Honoured Group, "we were not properly prepared for the racism this would ignite."

The board acknowledged that BLMTO's concerns were not new—they're issues the group has raised time and time again.

Speaking to VICE Tuesday, BMLTO spokesman Hashim Yussuf said pride's apology is too little too late.

"It was a very long statement, but there wasn't really much concrete," he said. "There hasn't really been much work that we've seen from them that shows they are committed to meeting our demands."

Yussuf spoke of the backlash the group experienced during the 30-minute protest—when attendees were heckling them and yelling "all lives matter."

"We've never had that much push back from any of our actions before."

He said pride has not been in direct contact with BLMTO since the parade and that the group found out about the apology when it popped up on social media.

In its statement, Pride Toronto said it will use its dispute resolution process to assess law enforcement's participation in future parades.

"Recognizing that no one has asked or agreed to a full exclusion of this group—the [dispute resolution process] will however consider the nature of police participation."

It is also looking to find a new executive director and fill four positions on its board of directors.

Yussuf said he hopes some of those roles will be filed by trans black women, but "we don't have high hopes for them when it comes to anything."

However, he said BLMTO will continue to make sure Pride Toronto is held accountable to the queer black community.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.