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Capital Pride names new festival producer

Mauricio Olivares says unity will be key to this year’s success

Front row (left to right): Sarah James; Tova Larsen; Mauricio Olivares; Benoît Proulx; Stéphane Robert and Ashley Blackwood. Second row: Andrea Guilbault; Genevieve Bilodeau-Bouchard; Norman MacMillan; Michael Chung; Mike Connors; Michael Norris and Brodie Fraser. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

Capital Pride has further solidified its team — Mauricio Olivares joins as the new festival producer, and an operations committee has been chosen.

Olivares addressed his team for the first time on April 17 at an informal reception at Ottawa City Hall.

“No matter how difficult it’s been as a community to deal with problems, we come together and we challenge those things and those obstacles and we’re going to overcome them,” Olivares said, addressing operation committee members. “The important thing is we’re here, 30 years later.”

With only four months until Pride, Olivares thanked everyone in advance for the hard work that will be necessary to make the festival a success. Speaking exclusively to Daily Xtra, he says unity will be the key to Pride’s success.

“I will make a call for unity, to join us, to remember we’re one community and we’re all seeking the same goals, which is to improve our community, to make sure our rights are respected, that people are aware of the challenges we’re facing, that we’re a family,” Olivares says. “Like every family, we may have a difference of opinion, but at the end of the day we are stronger together and only together can we overcome our challenges.”

Born in Mexico City, Olivares has been in Ottawa for three years and previously lived in Vancouver and Toronto. He organized Pride’s human rights vigil last year and says it’s important to highlight human rights during this year’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

“We still face human rights struggles in Canada, for example the transgender community. Bill C-279 in the Senate has been blocked for quite a while,” Olivares says. “We can’t leave our transgender brothers and sisters left behind. We need to unify . . . we also need to remember that other brothers and sisters around the world are suffering, for example in Africa and Russia and places where they don’t have the rights and benefits that we enjoy in Canada.”

The operations committee has some new faces and some familiar ones. Brodie Fraser, who was last year’s sponsorship and fundraising coordinator, will lead sponsorship again. Ashley Blackwood, who ran last year’s community fair, is this year’s community coordinator. Andrea Guilbault was site coordinator last year, and this year will use that experience as the assistant events coordinator. Tova Larsen returns as the parade coordinator.

Tammy Dopson, who spearheaded the Capital Pride partnership with the Bank Street Business Improvement Area in the wake of the previous organization’s bankruptcy, says although there are some familiar faces, every member of the operations committee was chosen on their merits. The new Capital Pride organization has a clean slate, she adds.

“What I mean by clean slate is that we started from scratch and how we’ve hired people,” Dopson says. “They won it on their own merits. They didn’t win it because they were friends with somebody. They didn’t win it because they were past Pride or not past Pride. They won it solely on the merits of their abilities to do the job.”

Applicants were interviewed by a three-person panel, then the names were brought to the community advisory committee (CAC) for voting. Dopson says she declined to interview or vote on the candidates to avoid a perceived conflict of interest.

“I was pretty close to some of the candidates and I felt that to avoid any appearance of conflict I shouldn’t have a vote in it,” Dopson says.

Fraser was previously a member of the CAC but left shortly after serving as spokesperson at a public meeting on Jan 20 in order to compete for a position on the operations committee.

Some newer faces include: Mike Connors and Ceilidh Jeacle as assistant festival producers; Stéphane Robert as budget officer; Sarah James as communications coordinator; and Michael Chung as events coordinator. Uyen Ta, Bryce Butt, Norman MacMillan, Michael Norris, Genevieve Bilodeau-Bouchard, Benoît Proulx and Lauren Cloot have taken on assistant roles. Melanie Bejzyk and Oliver Foulkes are members-at-large.  

This is the Olivares’s first time as a festival producer, but he says he can draw on his background as a project manager.

“I’ve never actually been on the project management side of an event, but I’ve been on the volunteer side,” he says. “However, I have project management experience with managing projects of more than $25 million with large corporations and banks, so I’ve had a lot of experience managing very large groups of people internationally.”

Having just met his team, it’s too early to give many details on the festival, but Olivares aims to bring Pride back to Bank Street.

“One of the hopes that we’re looking into is to have the festival in the Village,” he says. “This event actually started in the Village, so we believe that 30 years later it should be there, especially now that we have a lot of support of gay businesses and people who are in the community.”