[By Sarah Miskus]

It is not a new trend, but 2017 promises to bring corporate activism to the center of every communicator’s attention.  This year, Pride Toronto finds itself in a dangerous love triangle of protest, inclusion and evolution. Since their demonstration in 2016, the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter has been aggravating tensions between Pride Toronto and the Toronto Police Services (TPS); the issues at hand are now the focal point of a highly controversial communications dilemma.

On Feb. 10, Chief Mark Saunders of TPS released a statement to announce that they will not be participating in the 2017 Pride Parade. This decision appears to be a proactive reaction by TPS to the internal conflicts that Pride Toronto is facing amongst their marginalized groups.

It is not clear who made the initial decision. It is possible that Pride Toronto lacks the organizational confidence to publicly substantiate a decision. The police have chosen to remain diplomatic and neutral by complying with the wishes of both parties and assuming responsibility of the decision. However, Syrus Marcus Ware, Black Lives Matter spokesperson, raised concern with Chief Saunder’s statement telling the Globe and Mail, “They are trying to flip the narrative…they were uninvited.”

Both Pride Toronto and Black Lives Matter are fundamentally identified within social movements; audiences can expect these organizations to be provocative, and even sometimes controversial. But there are stark differences in the way that each one is communicating this situation with the public, and this indicates a contentious dynamic for all activists- especially those working on behalf of a company.

The publicity of this decision, regardless of its executor, exhibits the challenge of communicating effectively and managing relations without overstepping the nebulous boundaries of corporate activism. TPS has the right to support Toronto Pride, but it is their responsibility to step away from provocation. It is a strong reminder that while activism is an honorable endeavor, unsuitable communication and engagement strategies can undermine the integrity of any organizational body.

(Photo by Stacie DaPonte via Flickr)

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