Toronto’s big LGBTQ celebration on June 24 will be one of both Pride and mourning. Organizers are asking volunteers and attendees to wear black to recognize the eight victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
An estimated million people attend the event.
Toronto Pride’s executive director, Olivia Nuamah, says this a period of trauma for the city, particularly for the LGBTQ community.
“We have seen so much tragic loss of life this year,” Nuamah told the Toronto Star. “We want to show that we support the whole of the city, and we stand against anyone who limits our ability to live our life as freely and as safely as we want.”
The parade will begin with a moment of silence, and it will close with rainbow colors moving into a sea of black. The gestures will honor the gay murder victims, as well as the 10 victims of the April 23 van attack in the city.
The use of color is deliberate, Nuamah said.
“The one thing that feels celebratory is the color, and the one thing that we’re really trying to take away this year is the color,” she said to CBC News.
“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,” Nuamah said.
It was the disappearance of local activist Andrew Kinsman, 49 — one day after Pride last year — that heightened concerns of a possible serial killer. But it took Toronto Police six months to arrest Bruce McArthur, a local landscaper, who’s now charged with eight murders. The investigation into more deaths continues.
McArthur, in custody in Toronto, has had no court appearances.
Earlier this year, police complied with Toronto Pride’s request that they not march in uniform. The Toronto Star reports that at this year’s Pride, for the first time, an alcohol open-carry policy will be in effect. Patrons 19 and older can purchase a wristband and carry drinks around designated areas.
Frustration with Toronto police runs deep in the city’s LGBTQ community, not just for the slow-moving investigation, but dating back to 1981’s Operation Soap. That’s when police raided the city’s bathhouses and arrested 300 men.
For months after last year’s Pride, friends of the victim Kinsman had organized search parties for him. One friend, Robin LeBlanc, said the show of black at colorful Pride doesn’t offer much comfort, but it is a powerful statement.
“I do feel coming together will be a good thing,” LeBlanc texted 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.”