Image of Justine Trudeau: twitter
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Toronto, June 27 (Canadian-Media): Canada’s largest and 37 annual Toronto Pride Parade 2017 with its theme of inclusivity , led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, began Sunday afternoon, while activists from Black Lives Matter (BLM) made a surprise appearance towards the end of the parade.
“This is all about including people,” Trudeau, with a temporary tattoo of a rainbow maple leaf on his cheek told media shortly before the parade began.
“It’s all about how we celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong, and today we celebrate with the entire LGBTQ community.”
Trudeau, who had become the first sitting prime minister to march in the parade, was joined by his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and their children Xavier and Ella-Grace.
Also present in this year’s march were Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.
Carolyn Bennett: Facebook
During the opening of Toronto Pride Toronto with his final service, pastor and prominent gay activist Brent Hawkes, said, "Inclusion is the core value in our community and as long as a group or a company supports LGBT equality, then in my opinion, welcome aboard."
Brent Hawkes: Facebook
But the inclusivity of the parade was put in stake by the absence of Toronto Police in the parade.
Tory said his excitement at Pride Parade was marred by Organizers of Pride Toronto’s decision to exclude Toronto police float and uniformed officers in this year's parade, as demanded by BLM in 2016.
"Any time anybody is excluded it can't be a good thing," Mayor Tory told reporters. "We've got to get it resolved, we'll resolve it in the Toronto way, which is by talking about it and I'm very optimistic that it will be resolved in time for next year."
BLM’s argument was that allowing uniformed officers at the parade could discourage other marginalized communities’ attending the parade
But tweets from BLM organizers said this year’s Pride was more inclusive and accessible because of their activism.
Olivia Nuamah, executive director of BLM, also said result of excluding uniformed police in the parade did not affect attendance in the parade.
On the other hand, absence of uniformed police from the parade revoked remarks from prominent people.
“The police not in uniform is really significantly important, especially to people of colour,” said Tori Cress, an Anishinaabe activist who walked with the Indigenous march. “Those are things that we equate to violence historically.”
Toronto police in their uniform, nevertheless, were present in the parade to guard the event.
“It’s sad that we’re not able to actually march in the parade, but I understand the chief’s decision,” said acting superintendent Steve Molyneaux of the Toronto police’s 51 division. “We’re still here to police it and make sure it’s safe and make sure everyone has a good time.”
Meanwhile, in response to last month’s invitation from the Gay Officers Action League of New York, a group from uniformed Toronto police joined members of the New York’s uniformed Police Department in pride events Sunday in New York City.
Gathered around the corner from the main festivities on Church St. were a crowd of about 100 for an Indigenous opening ceremony which began with a prayer by Ma-Nee Chacaby, a two-spirited person of the Beaver Clan from Thunder Bay.
“We’re here just to walk,” Chacaby said. “To be visible. To show we’re proud to be who we are, especially the two-spirited people.”
Omar Aljebouri, President of Toronto’s Inclusive Rugby Team also said inclusivity was the main criteria while recruiting members of his team.
“Everybody wants to be involved in community and our Rugby team serves as a bridge for all the members of the club to get involved in the community. Our club likes to build connection during Pride event and it is our tradition every year to organize a series of events to engage in communities and people love it," said Aljebouri.
Ma-Nee Chacaby: Facebook
The dark clouds and chances of rain could not deter the spirit of 150 groups -- including major financial institutions of Canada, healthcare workers, tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook; health care workers, research institutes, doctors, nurses, Canadian Armed forces and other major transit groups of the city such as TTC, GoTransit -- with their colourful theme displays marched down the parade route.
Parade itself, for many attendees, was the central focus of the day.
Lucky Vincent Bersales, who grew up in the Philippines, marched for the first time in this parade and said he loved Toronto as it had accepted him for who he was.
Towards the end of ceremony BLM protesters made their appearance in all-black outfits near Yonge and College streets and with their fists raised in the air chanted,
“May we never again have to mourn another life like that of Andrew Loku,” read one of the signs which referred to fatal shooting of a black man by Toronto police in 2015.
“Wherever they go, black folks will resist their presence,” activist Rodney Diverlus said of police.
But the man parade had already passed and was not halted by the protests of BLM.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)