This year’s Pride celebrations are going to pay tribute to some of the LGBT community’s harsh realities, including the eight people police believe are the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
One of the most visible signs of mourning will be the sea of black that is expected to close the Pride Parade, which has always been known for its rainbow of colours.
The executive director of Pride Toronto, Olivia Nuamah, says barriers will open at the end of the parade and the community will be invited to march in silence, wearing black.
“It’s one of the ways we want to commemorate the death of eight men in our community,” said Nuamah. Pride Month begins June 1. The Pride Parade will be held June 25.
The colour black will also be worn by all of Pride’s volunteers, as a way of signifying what the community has gone through in the past year.
“The one thing that feels celebratory [about Pride] is the colour and the one thing that we’re really trying to take away this year is the colour,” said Nuamah. “Even though we understand that we’re celebrating, we also need to deal with some hard truths about the LGBTQ community and the issues of safety that we still suffer.”
Victim went missing after last year’s parade
One of the first alleged victims that police identified was Andrew Kinsman. The 49-year-old went missing on June 26 last year, a day after the 2017 Pride Parade.
For months, many of Kinsman’s friends, including Robin LeBlanc, organized search parties. Although she says the show of black doesn’t offer much comfort from a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened, she agrees that it’s a powerful statement nonetheless.
“I do feel coming together will be a good thing,” said LeBlanc in a text to CBC Toronto. “In the past little while we have seen a lot of darkness and we could use a little light to stand around.”
For the second year in a row, uniformed police will not be marching in the parade. Many in the community feel their concerns about safety and the possibility of a serial killer in the Gay Village were ignored.
In a statement sent out last month, Pride Toronto asked the TPS to withdraw its application, suggesting that the relationship between the LGBT community and the police was too strained to be mended by a parade.
Minute of silence before the parade
To highlight the community’s struggle with security Pride Month will feature a week-long engagement campaign called Until We Are Safe, starting May 28.
‘The one thing that feels celebratory is the colour and the one thing that we’re really trying to take away this year is the colour.’ – Olivia Nuamah
Fifteen organizations will be working together to raise awareness about all the resources available to help the LGBT community.
A feature that the Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP) wants to promote is its email system. Those going out on a date can send an email with their number and whereabouts.
“We wait to hear back from them, when they’re back from their trip to say that they’re safe,” said Haran Vijayanathan, ASAAP’s executive director. If they don’t email us then we would call them … and if they don’t respond, we would take that information to the police station and say what do you think our next steps are.”
Vijayanathan says the system can ensure someone’s absence will be “reported in a timely manner so a search can be started.”
The final addition to Pride will be a minute of silence before this year’s parade. It hasn’t been done in the last two years, but given all that’s happened, Olivia Nuamah says it felt right to bring that minute back in 2018.