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Pride Toronto Has Apologized For "A History Of Anti-Blackness"

It comes after months of debate over a protest by Black Lives Matter Toronto.

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Pride Toronto has issued an apology for "a history of anti-blackness" within the organization and "its role in deepening the divisions" within the LGBT community.

Mark Blinch / THE CANADIAN PRESS

In a statement shared by the Board of Directors on Tuesday, Pride Toronto also apologized "emphatically and unreservedly" for "repeated marginalization of the marginalized within our community that our organization has continued."

The organization also said it regrets how it handled a protest from Black Lives Matter Toronto during this year's Pride parade.

BLMTO — who were 2016's honoured group — halted the parade for 30 minutes with a list of demands for Pride Toronto.

Mark Blinch / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Among those demands was increased funding and support for black spaces at Pride and the removal of police floats from the parade.

Pride's executive director, Mathieu Chantelois, signed the list of demands but later backtracked and said he was just getting the parade moving again. He resigned in August amid allegations of racism and sexual harassment.

Mark Blinch / THE CANADIAN PRESS

"We apologize that the lack of decisive decision-making has left many in our communities feeling attacked," Pride Toronto said in the statement. "This is the opposite of what Pride is all about."

Despite Chantelois' comments, the board now says it remains committed to honouring the demands presented by BLMTO.

The demand to remove police officers from the parade has proved the most controversial. Pride Toronto held two town hall meetings after the parade, during which more than 700 people voiced their opinions on the matter.

Mark Blinch / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The board apologized to those in law enforcement who "have felt unfairly attacked and targeted by the community that it turns to for love and support."

But they also admit they were not prepared for the racist backlash that came along with that controversy.

"There has been an unbelievable amount of racism expressed by members of our community through this organization. For that, we are sorry," the board said.

"As a team we recognize that a statement from Pride Toronto naming anti-Black racism in its practice and society at large is important," janaya khan, a member of BLMTO, told BuzzFeed Canada.

Christopher Katsarov / THE CANADIAN PRESS

They said it wasn't long ago that many people were ready to "write off" BLMTO, and now Canadians are having discussions about police involvement at Pride. khan also said that although change is happening, it will take time to build trust between Pride and black communities.

"We have seen massive cultural shifts on how people relate to Black Lives Matter as a movement in huge waves of support," said khan. "It's dope."

The board said it will use its dispute resolution process to determine the future participation of some 400 marchers from 11 different law enforcement agencies.

Christopher Katsarov / THE CANADIAN PRESS

"We are listening. We hope that together, we can move forward as an organization," the board said.

"If we can do that, we can show the world how to create a festival that is rooted in our collective experiences, honours our courageous pasts, and looks forward to creating a better future."

You can read the full statement from Pride Toronto here.

"I think the leadership of any organization determines the precedent set," said khan. "Pride has always stood for the most marginalized, and the removal of the old and bringing in of new team members who are invested in justice has mad possibility."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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