It was a surreal evening at the annual general meeting (AGM) of Pride Toronto (PT) on Sept 23.
Police on bicycles lingered outside Church Street Public School in Toronto’s gay village for five hours, while inside a tightly controlled semi-public meeting saw the delivery of unaudited financial information, the election of one new director and every motion put to the floor by members ruled out of order by the chair.
And no, they didn’t let Chad speak.
It was a rocky start, as attendees were separated into two groups. Two bouncers asked those who didn’t have voting status to wait in the hall while members took their seats.
Meanwhile, at least five people complained that their names were omitted from the official membership list, including former PT treasurer Ross Chapman and performer (and Xtra columnist) Ryan G Hinds.
After the board decided not to deal with their complaints before the meeting, folks tried to get them added to the voting list by moving a motion from the floor. It was ruled out of order.
Francis Yap was initially given a vote, but was confronted by PT interim co-chair Margaret Ngai before the meeting; after a lengthy exchange, PT volunteers removed the wristband that represented membership status from Yap.
Also before the meeting, someone distributed flyers that said “Let Chad Speak,” referring to Chad Simon, a board member appointed just a month before the AGM who had initially promised to address the membership.
Former PT staffer Lisa Duke moved a motion to add “any other business” to the agenda, but it was ruled out of order by Genevieve D’Iorio. D’Iorio was aided by the frequent interventions of PT’s lawyer, who identified herself as Susan Manwaring of Miller Thomson LLP.
During the update from the co-chairs, D’Iorio burst into tears and briefly left the room.
The financial information, if accurate, shows huge losses. PT presented a deficit of $400,000. Executive director Tracey Sandilands said that $200,000 of losses were due to sponsors who pulled out of the festival at the last moment — but when pressed, the PT board refused to identify them. Sandilands also said that $700,000 was cut from the budget just weeks before the event to prevent even greater losses.
PT's cash in the bank as of July 31 was $-70,000.
After taking a handful of questions about the AGM, the chair attempted to move on, even though several hands were still in the air. Jane Farrow moved a motion to extend the amount of time for questions on the financials but was ruled out of order by D’Iorio.
Anna Willats moved a motion demanding — based on the financials — the resignation of the board. That motion was ruled out of order.
After brief Q and As with the candidates, Francisco Alvarez was voted male co-chair and straight former Ward 27 candidate Evan Dean was added to the board.
Several members asked why they weren’t electing more board members, since the bylaws say that up to 12 people can serve. PT’s lawyer defended the 10-member cap.
A scrutineer of the election admitted that Sandilands, board member Mark Singh and volunteer coordinator Emily Gibson controlled 25 percent of the vote via proxies.
After the meeting, the board met briefly and elected another director, Roy Mitchell, who had placed second in the vote.
This is a developing story.