Phil recently contributed his expertise to the Toronto Sun to discuss the Toronto Police’s decision to pull out of the Pride Parade. Click here to read his article on the Toronto Sun website. The article is reproduced below:
T.O. cops pulling out of Pride ‘unfortunate’
TORONTO – In light of Toronto Police officially deciding not to take part in this year’s Pride parade, the Toronto Sun spoke with former Conservative MPP Phil Gillies, who pushed for LGBT rights back in the 1980s.
Here are his thoughts on this latest development:
Q: What was your first reaction to Chief Mark Saunders’ announcement that his officers will not participate in this year’s Pride parade?
Gillies: “I think it’s very unfortunate. I can understand the police being upset after the decision that was taken at the Pride annual meeting. However, I think it’s unfortunate. We need our police to be involved with the community. They’ve made great strides in recent years to build bridges with the community. There are gay and lesbian police officers, many of whom are assigned to and work around Pride, and we need them there. They shouldn’t be turned away just because they’re wearing a uniform.”
Q: What should happen next?
Gillies: “The one thing I would say is, okay, it’s not even the middle of February yet. The parade isn’t till June 25. There’s lots of time to bring the two sides together to work something out. So I would like to think that the announcement today is not the last word on the subject. I happen to think our mayor has extraordinary persuasive abilities, he’s a great negotiator, if anyone could bring the two sides back together, I think it would probably be him.
But I also think that the Pride committee and Toronto Police Service need to dig themselves out of any hard and fast positions that they’re locked into at present, and show some flexibility and work together to come up with a solution.”
Q: What would you like to see happen?
Gillies: “I’d like to see an arrangement made where police participation is welcomed back. If members of some communities within the LGBT community have a concern about relationships with the police, well fine, this is a good time to talk about that. But I don’t think the answer is to shut the door on our police service.
In the last 40 years, we’ve seen a move from the 1970s where police harassed gay and lesbian people with the support of government at the time and with the tacit support of a great number of people in the community. That was acceptable to many in the 1970s. We’ve seen significant strides decade after decade to the present, where I think it’s just terrific to see our policewomen and policemen in the parade along with all the other groups that make up the community. Frankly, those many years ago, I wasn’t sure we would ever see that in our lifetime. Let’s not blow it by having the two sides retrench into adversarial camps where they’re setting back the progress that has made in these relations for all these many years.”
Note: This interview was condensed.