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Capital Pride faces legal threat

Sébastien Provost asks board for retraction

Sébastien Provost has threatened legal action against the Capital Pride board and has asked it to retract statements made about him. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

Sébastien Provost is threatening legal action against Capital Pride and its board of directors and has asked the organization to retract statements made about him.

Provost, president of House of SAS, says he supplied his services free of charge, from producing the main festival plaza to hiring artists and coordinating the bar, as part of a sponsorship agreement. In a Sept 9 statement, Capital Pride alleged that initial results indicated that House of SAS “significantly exceeded the agreed-upon budget.” This was following the organization’s Aug 29 statement alleging “accounting irregularities” that Capital Pride said could lead to a police investigation.

“I was horrified at what was happening, and I was hoping that we could meet and fix this because this just wasted and ruined all the hard work that everybody did. They wanted to lay blame, and they handled things very badly,” Provost alleges.

Jodie McNamara, chair of Capital Pride, confirms they’ve received Provost’s notice of intent to sue for libel.

“The notice requested a retraction, and everything we said was true, so we will not be making a retraction,” she says. “Everything we said was true, and we have the documentation to back it up.”

In a Sept 11 interview with Xtra, McNamara alleged that there was an apparent shortfall of liquor proceeds, either from less revenue than expected or less inventory left over, or a combination.

“I don’t even know how they could make that kind of a statement without sitting down with the rest of the organizers and the bar manager and looking at what was returned versus what went into storage,” Provost says.

Post-festival, Provost and other suppliers, including Guillaume Tasse, who provided infrastructure for the festival, said Capital Pride board members cancelled meetings. When their cheques bounced as well, Tasse and Provost went to the police to file a fraud complaint.

Provost says that police have told him an investigation has been opened and will be forthcoming once a detective has been assigned to the case. Although the Ottawa Police Service can’t comment on specific investigations, a spokesperson acknowledged it can take time for a detective to be assigned to a fraud case. “That section is overwhelmed,” Constable Chuck Benoit says of the fraud division. Priority is given to cases where community members are in imminent danger, but all complaints are investigated, he says.

In the Sept 11 interview with Xtra, McNamara acknowledged that Capital Pride bounced cheques, including Tasse’s $10,000 deposit cheque and the $23,700 cheque that reimbursed Provost for the money he spent to cover the festival’s liquor bill. McNamara said Capital Pride stopped all payments and launched an investigation after it discovered the apparent shortfall of bar revenue, along with allegedly unapproved invoices. Provost has since been reimbursed the $23,700 he put up for the liquor bill, but he says that hardly settles the matter.

“The damage to my career has been so profound,” he alleges. “I’m not even sure I’ll be able to recover from it. My credibility to book artists right now is shot. My company’s name has been all over the press embroiled in criminality that Capital Pride has alleged, without even meeting with me, without ever discussing it with me.”

Provost says that it was a huge blow to his reputation when Capital Pride’s cheques to the artists he had booked bounced. Comments allegedly made about him by the festival’s board members, both in the media and in the community, were extremely damaging, he claims.

“I lost a contract, a client, because of it, which was a big customer of mine,” Provost says. “I get messages [on social media] from people saying, ‘Oh, aren’t you the guy who stole all the money from Capital Pride?’”

Although Capital Pride wouldn’t meet with him post-festival to go over the receipts, he says he has some ideas about why a shortfall could have occurred. First, a fridge that had been provided was broken and the replacement was insufficent, he claims. “One of the major issues that happened is that draft fridge with six taps broke down, actually never worked, so Beau’s [All Naturall Brewery] had to bring in a single unit that had two taps . . . We did not have the ability to serve fast because we only had two taps out of a tiny little machine with no compressor meant for very small venues.”

The second snafu was the late arrival of a soft-drinks order, he says. After providing Capital Pride with a list of drinks needed as mix, only a quarter of the order arrived on Sat, Aug 23. That got them through the day, but the following morning, despite putting in another order to Pride organizers, a “calamity of errors” resulted in the drinks not arriving until 5pm, Provost alleges.

“I was so shocked and upset by it because from peak times, from 1pm to 5pm, we had thousands and thousands of people there, and we couldn’t serve anything but draft on two taps and coolers,” he says, estimating the lost revenue would have been between $22,000 and $27,000.

The third problem was the VIP area. Pride was supposed to issue only 75 to 100 passes but gave out 235, Provost alleges, adding he was concerned about the amount of free alcohol being dispensed but was overruled when he tried to put a stop to it.

McNamara declined further comment.

“It’s all being dealt with by lawyers,” she says. “It would be irresponsible to discuss the details of any of this until the authorities have had an opportunity to thoroughly investigate.”