Pride Toronto and Toronto Police talk past each other as security costs soar

May 25, 2023

For Pride Toronto, 2019 was a transformational year. That was when organizers decided to ban uniformed police officers from participating in the parade, setting off a debate between members of the LGBT communities and local authorities that still hasn’t been settled.

In 2023, a new issue has emerged that some people see as the ongoing friction between organizers and police. Two already expensive elements of organizing the festival have become so overbudget that Pride Toronto says they may have to cut back the scope of the festival.

One of those elements is insurance, which went from $60,000 in 2022 to a stratospheric $278,000 in 2023. The other is the cost to staff the festival with Toronto police, who say they need 90 officers to provide security, up from 67 officers last year.

From the CBC: Pride Executive Director Sherwin Modeste said the organization has seen a 300 per cent increase in its insurance premiums and 150 per cent jump in the cost of paid duty police officers. He says the event’s footprint has grown, but cites safety concerns surrounding large public festivals and the 2SLGBTQI+ community as contributing factors to the hike.

“Hate towards the 2SLGBTQl+ community, unfortunately, has always been there,” Modeste said.

“Oftentimes, folks will say, you know, it’s happening in the U.S., it’s not going to come to Canada. Unfortunately, it is here.

“We just find those rates are just ridiculous,” Modeste said of both increases. “We’re currently having conversations with all three levels of government to help to absorb some of those costs, because as an organization we did not budget for an over 300% increase in insurance, and over 150% increase in paid duty officers.”

Toronto Police spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said the service is recommending the increase because of the “substantial increase in the event footprint, and not due to elevated security risks.”

With an extended parade route, longer festival hours and a new 1,000-person beer garden at the event, she said the service felt the increase was needed. Contributing to the increased costs is a 14 per cent-plus jump in the hourly rate of pay for officers performing paid duty under their collective bargaining agreement, she added.

“As it stands, Toronto police have not received information about increased security threats related to the Pride Festival,” Sayer said in a statement. “Ultimately, the festival is larger this year, and TPS is recommending the increase to ensure public safety and the safe movement of pedestrians and traffic.”

It’s worth noting that the organizers of Pride Toronto and Toronto Police Services are talking past each other. While TPS insists there has been no elevated security concerns related to Pride 2023, Modeste insists that LGBT groups are constantly under attack. This almost sounds contradictory as security threats are probably the best reason to increase security costs.

TPS is insistent that the main reason for the increase is due to Pride 2023 being much larger than in previous years.

Pride Toronto was long ago cemented as a main annual tradition, and this year’s festival will no doubt see another record-setting crowd, especially since there is no pandemic to worry about.

But the ongoing fight between TPS and Pride organizers doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. This could be for various reasons. TPS expressed disappointment in 2019 when they were unceremoniously disinvited to the festival, and many inside Pride Toronto disagreed with the executive when they banned uniformed officers.

At the same time, with costs ballooning as much as they have, it is reasonable to assume that TPS did not make much of an effort to meet Pride organizers halfway.

Contributing Writers

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