In 2019 Pride Toronto received a $1,000,000 grant from Public Safety Canada. This 5-year project was to build relationships between pride and police. As part of this project, Pride Toronto proposed to work with law enforcement in the policing of Indigenous communities.
Pride Toronto never delivered this. Instead, the funds were redirected to a “safer spaces incubator”.
Despite repeated calls for more information on this grant, the current leadership of Pride Toronto did not come forward with the truth.
1. Origins: a John Tory Pride/Police Deal
In 2016, Black Lives Matter Toronto protested the pride parade. Pride Toronto agreed to a series of demands, including the removal of police participants from the festival. This was upheld by the membership during the January 2017 Pride Toronto Annual General Meeting.
In summer 2017, Pride Toronto, the police, and Mayor John Tory’s office came to a secret deal. They agreed to use government grants to slowly reintroduce police into the festival. This would be accomplished through a consultation process funded through an Ontario Trillium grant. It was to be sponsored by TD Bank.
Under this deal, officers would march in uniform in the 2018 parade. The public messaging of this deal was to include Mayor John Tory’s office.
2. Serial Killer
On January 18, 2018 the serial killer who murdered several gay men was arrested. Only a few weeks earlier, police chief Mark Saunders downplayed any suggestion of a serial killer in the gay village.
Despite widespread conversations about police and the queer community, Mayor John Tory’s office continued to push for police in pride. Pride Toronto appeared to agree.
“If they’re worried about doing it in light of murder investigations, I think this is a good low bridge way of confirming and moving on. It doesn’t have to be celebratory.”Email from advisor Siri Agrell to Mayor John Tory, February 2, 2018.
On April 2, 2018 Pride Toronto bowed to public pressure and reversed course, temporarily.
3. $1,000,000 Grant agreement
On January 22, 2019 members of Pride Toronto voted to reaffirm the ban on police participation in pride. Six days later on January 28, 2019, Pride Toronto signed a contribution agreement with Public Safety Canada.
The $1,000,000 agreement was for a five-year project where Pride Toronto would work with policing services to build “more effective working relationships”. They would also work with police to “develop more effective policing practice in LGBTQ2+ Indigenous community.”
The project description makes reference to the “decriminalization” of homosexuality in 1969, this is connected to the $250,000 Canadian Heritage grant. This proposed project was not delivered.
4. May 2021 “Pivot”
In April and May 2021, Public Safety Canada reviewed changes to the grant. In a “pivot”, Pride Toronto significantly scaled back the grant activities. Many of the proposed grant activities were replaced by a “safer spaces incubator”.
The funding for Indigenous consultations was removed.
“Lack of organizational capacity to effectively deliver activities in First Nations communities … Pride Toronto currently lacks the capacity and relationships to effectively carry out the activities.”Pride Toronto “Pivot”, $1,000,000 Public Safety Grant, April and May 2021.
5. Cover Up
Current Pride Toronto leadership has faced numerous questions about this $1,000,000 Public Safety grant. This includes the media.
On February 2, 2022, Xtra reported they asked Pride Toronto Executive Director Sherwin Modeste to provide this information but he did not follow through.
6. KPMG Review
In response to questions raised from this research, Pride Toronto hired KPMG to conduct a review of three federal grants.
For the Public Safety grant, KPMG found that Pride Toronto claimed staff salaries as part of their expenses. However, Pride Toronto could not demonstrate the staff performed work toward delivering the commitments made in the grant.
Grant documents were obtained through access to information requests with the Public Safety Canada and with the City of Toronto. The documents can be downloaded here:
A-2021-00080 – Public Safety Canada documents
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE (Coming Soon)