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Plans begin to crystallize in Pride Toronto’s search for renewal

Panel will gather evidence over fall, compile recommendations

New details are emerging about what shape Pride Toronto’s (PT) renewal efforts will take.

In June, it announced it would hold broad consultations with Toronto’s queers. That process is being shepherded by 519 Community Centre director Maura Lawless, gay lawyer Doug Elliott and Metropolitan Community Church pastor Brent Hawkes.

According to Hawkes, the panel will be seven members, its work will start in September, and its goal will be to have recommendations for PT in December or January.

The panellists will be charged with gathering input and generating a set of recommendations. In particular, they’ll be answering some key, unresolved questions.

“Pride is pulling together a bunch of issues that they would like some direction on,” says Hawkes.

“Obviously, some of those issues are directly before us now,” he adds, giving as examples the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and the increasing corporatization of Pride.

Meanwhile, Hawkes says that he, Elliott and Lawless have generated a list of people they would like to sit on the panel and sent the list to PT.

From the pool PT’s board approves, people will be approached to create a diverse, seven-member panel. Both Hawkes and Elliott have offered to sit on the panel.

“We’re trying to make recommendations to the Pride board about how this should function, while at the same time trying to make it as independent as possible,” he says. After the panel is selected and given its mandate, “then the panel will be able to take off independently to do their work.”

“The initial conversations have [included] some open public forum formats, but also some targeted formats to go to some organizations and groups to get their feedback. So it’s not just the louder voices who are really engaged in some of these issues,” says Hawkes.

Hawkes wants the process to be as public as possible, with the mandate, meetings and recommendations all shared widely.

Because of a combination of vacations and the scope of their task, the public consultation panel won’t have results in time for the AGM slated for September 23, Hawkes says.

“There’s no way. If we’re really serious about listening to the community and listening to different segments of the community, it’s not going to be possible,” says Hawkes. “It’s going to be the first of September before the panel kicks off. And the hope is — at least my hope is, if I’m involved — that September, October, November will be intense times to listen, and then to make recommendations.”

Doug Elliott and Maura Lawless are on vacation and neither could be reached for comment.