2 min

Pride festival in Saint John cancelled

Organizers cite burn-out, lack of support

NO PRIDE THIS YEAR. Port City Rainbow Pride spokesperson Mack MacKenzie hopes the cancellation of this year's event will be a wake-up call for the community to get involved. Pictured above: last year's soggy Pride parade. Credit:

The queer community in New Brunswick’s largest city won’t be taking to the streets in a show of Pride this year. Organizers of Port City Rainbow Pride (PCRP), in Saint John, pulled the plug last week on the 2009 celebration.

In a Jul 2 press release, the committee’s president highlighted a lack of confirmed events as reason for the cancellation.

“We believe that the community deserves a first rate celebration,” Don Uhryniw said, “and [we] have decided to turn our energies to planning next year’s event.”

This will be the first year, since 2003, without a Pride celebration in Saint John.

Pride’s board and committee are entirely volunteer-based and, this year, there was not enough commitment and involvement to successfully organize the week’s events, says the board’s spokesperson, Mack MacKenzie.

After years of piecing together the festival with little support, many repeat volunteers have “burned out” a bit, says MacKenzie. Lack of time and family obligations are some of the reasons people don’t get involved with organizing committees, but others have the notion that “somebody else is going to do [the work].”

“I think they’ve been successful with it over the years,” he says, “but my motion at the last board meeting was, in order to do this as well — or better — as past years, realistically we’re not going to be able to pull this off in the next six weeks.”

Criticism over the size and style of the celebration has also taken its toll on board members, MacKenzie adds. He’s heard feedback from past attendees complaining Port City Rainbow Pride did not have the glitz and glamour associated with Pride in larger centres.

It’s hard to motivate people to put their heart into planning, time after time, when it’s not appreciated, he says.

“People are always willing to offer plenty of good ideas, but when you challenge them to get involved, and help to implement those ideas, sometimes the fear factor comes in… or general apathy.” 

With a metropolitan population of only 122,000, Saint John can’t play by the same rules as Canada’s bigger cities, he says. Considering Pride’s small crew of volunteers and a budget of next-to-nothing, he says the city is lucky to have had a Pride celebration at all.

The current board plans to use the next 13 months wisely and have Pride Week organized for the week after New Brunswick Day 2010. Saint John will mark its 225th anniversary — as this country’s oldest incorporated city — next year, and MacKenzie wants Pride to be a prominent part of the celebrations and homecoming.

“This is a city that is far more open than it has ever been,” says MacKenzie. “We can let the LGBT people from the greater Saint John area — who have moved to larger centres — know they are welcome to come home and to rediscover their roots here.”

Board members also want to reach out to segments of the population they haven’t necessarily accommodated in the past. There have been criticisms, he says, that Pride is “elitist,” not offering much for young people or those living on limited means.

Above all, MacKenzie hopes this year’s absence of Port City Rainbow Pride will be a wake-up call to the queer community in Saint John to get involved. He wants people to know what they are missing and, he says, those messages have already started coming in.

Port City Rainbow Pride.