2 min

A tough year for Pride

More people and higher temperatures

Credit: Joshua Meles

The thing about Pride is that nothing can stop it. Burdened this year by insurance headaches, a garbage strike, the first-ever arrests of parade participants (see main story on this page) and a death, organizers still managed to pull off the party of the summer.

Police estimate that almost a million people attended the Jun 30 parade, higher this year perhaps because of the Canada Day holiday and more Americans who had the following Wednesday off.

“The parade route seemed more packed than usual,” says Pride co-chair Kyle Knoeck. This was his first of two terms as co-chair with Kim-Ellen Hurst, who finishes her second term this fall. “My sense is that we had more tourists in town.”

With more people and higher temperatures, there was also more snafus. The parade was delayed due to several participants suffering from sunstroke and heat exhaustion, leading to many first aid calls.

At about 9:30pm Sunday night, a 54-year-old man died in the beer garden next to Wilde Oscars; police say it was a heart attack.

“Safety and security volunteers there contacted St John’s ambulance. They did first aid until the ambulance arrived,” says Knoeck. “The death was a real sad way to end the weekend.”

In addition to the arrest of seven parade participants for nudity, 52 Division Supt Aidan Maher says police arrested several people for drunkenness. A woman who was “saying anti-gay things” at the corner of Church and Maitland was arrested for causing a disturbance, says Maher.

“It was actually very quiet for us,” he says.

As for the garbage, seven Pride volunteers and a pick-up truck did most of the dirty work. Volunteers usually do some of the clean-up, but Knoeck says “it was a more intensive effort than what we usually do…. We had to have the streets in condition to be open by 7am. The barricades had to be cleared and the streets had to be free of debris.

“I’ve never had such direct contact with garbage before.”

The group Eco Queers had planned to run their recycling program for the second year. But because they rely on city workers to provide recycling totes, it didn’t happen.

This year’s parade was noticeably short on politicians. Mayor Mel Lastman, who got soaked in his first-ever parade last year, had announced early that he wouldn’t attend. But his replacement, deputy mayor Case Oottis, also cancelled at the last minute. The city workers’ labour dispute has been suggest as the reason for their no-showing.

“We don’t invite people to the parade,” says Knoeck. “People can say they want to appear and then they don’t show up. I’m guessing [in the case of Lastman and Oottis] that city business got in the way.”