An ultimatum issued to the Georgia Straight by one of the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) parade directors — who demanded an immediate explanation for alleged inaccuracies in the Vancouver weekly’s Aug 2 cover story “Pride Incorporated” — has prompted the Straight to pull out of Sunday’s Pride parade.
The story explored the alleged corporatization of Pride and the Straight’s initial exclusion from the parade.
In an Aug 2 blog follow-up to his story, Straight editor Charlie Smith writes that VPS treasurer and parade director Ken Coolen called the paper, saying the publisher “had two hours to call and explain this week’s cover story.”
“If the publisher didn’t call,” Coolen is reported to have said, “the Straight would not be allowed in the parade.”
Publisher Dan McLeod did not return Coolen’s call. Instead, the Straight decided not to participate in the parade “for the first time in years,” says Smith.
When asked about the alleged ultimatum, Coolen declined to comment and referred the matter to VPS president John Boychuk.
Boychuk admits that “a heat-of-the-moment comment was made by Ken,” but says the “very passionate” parade director made the “unfortunate comment” in order to get a quick response.
“He realized it was unfair, and when I had my conversation with Charlie Smith I said that was something that was a knee-jerk reaction,” says Boychuk, adding he apologized for “any misconception” regarding the Straight’s float entry which “has not and will not be cancelled.”
“[Smith] said to me, “Doesn’t matter, we’re already pulling the plug,” Boychuk alleges.
When asked to elaborate on the “inaccuracies” Coolen reportedly saw in “Pride Incorporated,” Boychuk says: “It was a variety of different issues. I don’t have a copy in front of me so I can’t go through it point by point.
“At the end of the day, if we have concerns, just like any concerned citizen, we should be able to ask those questions and not be penalized,” Boychuk contends. “We feel we’re now being penalized for making sure that the community is not abused, and we feel abused right now.”
The Straight’s first gay columnist, Kevin Dale McKeown, says it’s the Straight that’s being penalized, not the Pride Society.
“I don’t think they [the VPS] were trying to control what the Georgia Straight said so much as they were trying to punish them for saying things that the Society didn’t want to have [said] in public at this time,” McKeown alleges. “And I think that’s very inappropriate. ”
But Boychuk maintains it’s the Pride Society that’s being penalized because of its earlier decision to deny the Straight entry into the parade after it missed the deadline for registration.
“We’re being used as a scapegoat because they didn’t want to play by the rules that were put on us from the City of Vancouver,” he alleges.
The deadline for submitting parade entry applications was Jun 30, which was then extended to Jul 14, Boychuk explains. “It wasn’t us who set the limitations. It was the City of Vancouver. We got as much information out as we could to tell people, “Get your applications in early.’
“We called every single entry from the last year and the year before, back in the beginning of June, including the Georgia Straight,” Boychuk continues.
Straight publisher McLeod says he never heard of any deadlines. “We were never told, that I know of, that there were any deadlines. But you would think when we’d been participating so many years there’d be some kind of grandfathering of people that have been there and been a fixture over the years,” he says.
Boychuk says the VPS offered the Straight a spot on the waiting list, but the Straight refused.
“At the end of the day we’re the ones having to defend ourselves from their initial actions-of a) being late and b) they chose not to be on the waiting list,” he says.
“We gave them an olive branch to come back in again, and at the end of the day they were the ones that pulled the plug, not us.”
Smith declined an interview for this story, saying his blog “speaks for itself.”