The board of directors of Halifax Pride has apologized to its constituent communities after co-chair Ed Savage said he wanted to make Pride in that city “less promiscuous.” Savage says he was misquoted by reporters, but Xtra has obtained a recording of his conversation with a Halifax journalist that indicates otherwise.
It all started when Halifax Metro reporter Alex Boutilier quoted Savage in a June 2 piece, saying, “That’s what we strive for, to make [Halifax Pride] less promiscuous than other Prides across the country.”
Savage was also quoted as saying he wants to make the event more “family-friendly” and wants it to demonstrate “a new professionalism.” The quotes were subsequently picked up by Xtra reporter Andrea Houston for a story on xtra.ca and in Xtra’s June 16 Toronto print edition. Houston attempted to contact Savage for comment on June 2 over a 12-hour period, but he did not return her calls or emails. Nor did he follow up with her after the story was published.
Gay communities in Halifax reacted swiftly when the original articles were published in Metro and Xtra on June 2. Many said they felt alienated by the term “family-friendly,” which is often used by rightwing religious groups.
Halifax community members questioned Savage about the comments at a June 21 meeting. Creating a better media strategy was on the agenda, says community organizer Shay Enxuga.
“We were able to talk pretty honestly about our frustrations about the sentiments behind those words [made by Savage],” says Enxuga. “We were talking about how Halifax Pride – what we perceived – was a move to become more family-friendly, more professional and less promiscuous.”
On June 23, the board of directors of Halifax Pride issued a clarifying statement and apology. (Don’t have Facebook? Read the text here.) The statement explained the board’s definitions of promiscuity, family-friendliness and professionalism, while giving its thoughts on the controversy.
“The statements reflected in the media, and the subsequent attention to them, caused a lot of upset in the community and raised a lot of questions about Halifax Pride’s values,” reads the nearly 800-word statement. “We think this happened through a combination of poorly chosen words, quotes taken out of context and the lack of a full and quick response.”
In conjunction with the statement’s release, an interview with Savage appeared in the Nova Scotia gay newspaper, Wayves. The lead on the article, titled “The P-Word,” reads, “A narrow interpretation of a certain word, combined with a misunderstanding and outright bad reporting had led to a recent flap surrounding the Halifax Pride Festival’s media launch.”
In the Wayves piece, Savage says that Boutilier misunderstood him. “I’m sure he took what I said a little bit wrong… What was said basically is that our festival is known for being less promiscuous.” The piece then goes on to read, “Xtra ran with the story – without contacting members of the Halifax Pride committee for additional comments – electing to focus on the word ‘promiscuous’ and ‘make something of it,’ Savage said.”
Savage – who has been involved with Pride for 10 years – spoke with Xtra on June 24. He says his words in the original piece by Boutilier were taken out of context, and the quotes are incorrect. He says the only reason he used the word “promiscuous” is because it was used in a question.
“I did not say those words,” says Savage. “I didn’t make that statement in that manner at all. In actuality, what was said is that Halifax Pride is less [promiscuous].”
But Savage can be heard clearly on Boutilier’s recording of their conversation:
“That’s what we strive for: to make it less promiscuous than most Prides across the country and make it more family-friendly. [The thinking is] our way of life in the Maritimes is different and also that… we feel that our allies and family aspect of Pride is just as important.”
Listen to the complete recording for yourself with the control below. The quote begins at about the 2:30 mark.
Wayves publisher Daniel MacKay says it’s poor journalism to reprint quotes without fact-checking their accuracy. As a Halifax-based publisher, he says, he knows the board of Halifax Pride can be difficult to contact — a fact, he says, that is lost on a Toronto-based publication like Xtra.
“It’s a small number of people running a big festival,” he says. “They often don’t return calls.”
MacKay says Xtra ought to have waited for Savage to speak on the record before publishing the June 2 article.
“Xtra should have had someone on the ground in Halifax to write the original story, not to do damage control for carelessly reprinting a salacious comment several weeks later,” he says.
Savage says he hopes the gay community will be quick to accept the board’s apology and move on. He also says he does not want to assign blame for the misunderstanding and hopes Pride’s policy of inclusion will attract many to the festival.
“Basically, we have a festival in 28 days… I don’t have time for anger,” he says.