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No cash, no march

Pride hits parade participants with new fees

Pride Toronto is charging a new “clean-up” fee to participants in this year’s parade, and is requiring individuals to register to march.

The new changes are not being well-received by participants, especially considering that the message of the parade has always been inclusion.

Pride will be charging individuals $25 and groups $50 — plus GST — to march in the Sun, Jun 25 parade. In the past, individuals and groups without a float or a vehicle were allowed to march for free.

Pride executive director Fatima Amarshi is reluctant to call it a fee. She says that the money is necessary because of the growing cost of cleaning up after the parade.

Amarshi says the city has slightly increased the money it charges for cleaning up, but wouldn’t specify exactly what other costs the fee covers. She says Pride volunteers who help with the clean-up are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task.

“I’m certainly hoping that people will not see it as that — a cash grab,” says Amarshi. “We’re an entirely free to the public event, but clean-up costs have gone up significantly. We have a million people at the parade. This ends up being something our volunteers can’t handle on their own.”

Many queer groups say they are surprised and disappointed by the charges.

“I think they’ll have a lot less people marching in the parade this year,” says Bert Bik, cofounder of Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (TNT MEN). “The community groups will be particularly hard-hit by this.”

Bik says TNT Men will continue to participate in Pride, but “for us, it’ll take a little more fundraising effort.”

Patricia Koine, founder of Gays, Lesbians Of African Descent (GLAD) says the added $50 might mean the group, which is not marching this year, might be unable to march in future Prides.

“If we were marching, it would have impacted us because we have zero funding. I’m not sure how we’ll react next year if we decide to march. There are so many other costs, around Pride especially. “

Amarshi would not say if a group or individual who refuses to pay the new charge would be banned from the parade — at least a few dozen traditionally join in at the last minute at the staging area. Instead, she referred to Pride’s bursary program, designed to help community groups with a budget of under $100,000 defray costs. Amarshi says the program could also be used to help individuals, although she didn’t specify how much of the new fee bursary aid might cover.

“If it’s absolutely dire for someone, we’ll talk to them. The point of this is in no way to restrict participation. The whole point is to get some support from the community.”

Amarshi denies that Pride’s new policy will weaken the spontaneous spirit of the parade.

“It’s more of a logistical change,” she says. “We really need as much advance notice of who’s participating in the parade as possible.” They would prefer if entrants registered on-line; they take credit cards.

Amarshi wouldn’t say how Pride plans to police participation or to keep individuals from joining in along the parade route.