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Disgruntled volunteers bite back

Two former volunteers who got kicked out of Pride Toronto last year are crying foul.

Gary Rorison and Mandom Hui say they were given the boot from the not-for-profit organization after complaining about Pride Toronto’s partnership with Pride Ball Toronto, the party fiasco at The Docks on Pride Saturday last year.

Rorison and Hui say they both expressed concerns about Pride Ball before and after the event, but were ignored.

Rorison was the volunteer food coordinator for Pride Toronto from October 2003 until August 2004, at which time Pride’s board of directors revoked his membership.

“They didn’t give a reason,” says Rorison.

Hui’s Pride Toronto membership was also revoked soon after. Hui was the 2004 volunteer editor of the Official Pride Guide and an office volunteer.

“They just said, ‘You’re not a member and do not talk to me, and do not mention to anyone about what happened,'” says Hui.

Rorison is suing Pride Toronto for $10,000 plus legal costs, claiming he was defamed in the wake of losing his membership. In a statement of claim filed in small claims court, Rorison writes that after his membership was revoked, “I then learned the board (namely a few people) were spreading false rumours about me and as to why I was no longer with the organization. Including the statement I stole from them. After learning about such rumours, I requested to the board they are stopped.”

His statement also claims that Rorison wrote to Pride Toronto’s board requesting a retraction, “which was simply ignored, leaving me no alternative but to issue suit.”

Pride Toronto isn’t talking publicly about Rorison’s accusations.

“Because things are in the courts right now, I’m not going to be able to [comment on] that,” says Fred Pitt, Pride Toronto cochair.

In a statement of defence from Pride Toronto dated Nov 29, 2004, Pitt and cochair Natasha Garda wrote:

“To be clear, we have never taken the position that you have stolen anything from Pride Toronto. We are satisfied that no member of the Board or any authorized representative of Pride Toronto has ever intimated or stated any such allegation to any other person, whether inside or outside of the organization. To the extent you are advised differently, we believe this to be false. We are sorry that this has caused you any anguish. Pride Toronto wishes to take this opportunity to thank you for your service during Pride 2004. To the extent that there were misunderstandings during your volunteer service for Pride Toronto, we very much regret this.”

Pitt also won’t say why Hui’s membership was revoked.

“Since what went on was an internal situation at Pride that we dealt with internal processes and whatnot, and just to safeguard and respect the privacy of the individuals involved I’m not going to comment on what went on,” says Pitt.

Rorison expects his claim against Pride Toronto will be heard in court soon.

“I want to make it clear this is not about the money as I will be donating what is awarded to a charity. This is about dying in [peace] with my good name intact,” says Rorison, who says he has serious health problems.