As “obtained” by Newstalk 1010 (i.e., as leaked to them).
The story was dated July 8, but the E‑mail was probably sent the day before. Update (2016.07.15): Now includes response from Black Lives Matter, which was on their blog all along.
I also want to address recent events surrounding the Pride Parade. There are clearly people in this city who want to drive a wedge between the TPS and the LGBTQ communities. They will not succeed. It must be a source of great anger to them that the TPS has made enormous strides in recent years to enhance and develop our relationship with those communities. The Service, internally and externally, has demonstrated a willingness to learn, to develop, to work together, to support each other. There is much to be done, but we have come a long way.
In the aftermath of a very successful and safe parade, attacks on the TPS have come, predictably, from those people. The attacks are inaccurate, irresponsible and inflammatory.
That has been confirmed by the overwhelmingly positive response from people all over the city. We have received many calls, E‑mail, texts and social-media posts that tell us how much the people of Toronto appreciate what you do. Members of the LGBT communities tell us they appreciate and understand how much better our relationship is, how they, indeed, feel served and protected by you and how strongly they feel the TPS must continue to work closely with the LGBT communities.
I have said, again and again, that I will sit down with any person or group who has ideas on better ways to reach out to marginalised communities, on how to work to make the city safer and more inclusive. That offer stands. I am interested in dialogue. What I am not interested in is monologues from those with nothing to offer except abuse and insult.
Recent events remind us how much public support there is for the TPS. But we cannot rest. We have to continue to push forward, continue to reach out to the most vulnerable and marginalised. With your support and hard work, and the support of the people of Toronto, we will succeed.
Response from Black Lives Matter
“Your recent letter re: Pride,” 2016.07.11 (unsigned):
Dear Chief Saunders,
I’m writing to express my disappointment after reading your recent open letter, specifically in your dismissal of the actions taken by Black Lives Matter activists at the Toronto Pride parade.
You frame the BLM action as being motivated by a desire to “drive a wedge” between the TPS and the LGBTQ community. In saying this, you desregard the fact that black people and other people of colour are dying at the hands of police officers and for that reason their only relationship with TPS is one of fear. That is the wedge, and it already exists. You are making it worse by not acknowledging this reality in your letter.
I’m a white, cisgender gay man , and I support queer officers marching in the parade on their own time in plain clothes, and I also support officers working at the parade to keep the public safe. However, I think a TPS float serves only to divide the community and disenfranchise many members of it. The TPS is not a constituency that needs official representation in the parade. It is a public service with a complicated history and present. Let’s not confuse the rights of individual officers to march with the rights of a taxpayer-funded service to act as lobbyists and create a PR display at the expense of marginalized groups.
You claim you are “interested in dialogue.” Consider the actions by the BLM activists your invitation. By not referring to them by name and dismissing their action out of hand in your letter, it doesn’t inspire confidence that you will actually engage in any dialogue. I hope you will find a way to meet in good faith with BLM activists and talk about the very real issues they have raised, because ignoring (and refusing to name) a problem doesn’t make it go away.
Lastly, I would urge the TPS to voluntarily withdraw their floats from future Pride parades. The important dialogue started by the BLM action has revealed rifts in the LGBTQ community, and there is an opportunity for the TPS to make a healing gesture instead of further defensive posturing and denials. Please consider it.