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Pride hands out annual awards

Community input way down, says chair

There was a disappointing lack of community input into the selection of Pride’s annual Awards of Excellence winners, says Pride Toronto’s cochair.

Asked how many nominations Pride received from the community, Mark Singh says he doesn’t have exact numbers, but that there weren’t many.

“Not as many as you would think,” says Singh. “We did get some nominations but there weren’t a lot. At that time of year we have a lot of calls out to the community for nominations. And it’s not just submitting names for the awards. We ask for biographical material, so it takes some work.”

Singh says the awards committee ended up soliciting nominations from those working in the fields of the various awards.

“We have a list of experts in the award areas,” he says. “We outreached to those people and requested that they think about who in these fields they would like to nominate.”

Singh says those nominations were then reviewed by a committee consisting of two Pride board members, two staff members and Pride’s gala event planner. The awards will be given out as part of the Pride Toronto Gala, held Tue, Jun 24 in the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District.

“Our committee makes recommendations to the board for winners and for runners-up, in case the winners can’t accept the award or decline,” Singh says. “There’s always, of course, healthy discussion. It’s in the board’s purview to change the choices.”

Singh says he’s very pleased with the list of winners and that the board accepted the committee’s recommendations with little problem. The winners this year are Ilene Chaiken, the creator of The L-Word, for arts and culture; Arsham Parsi, a founder of the Iranian Queer Organization, in human rights; the Rainbow Health Network in science, medicine and technology; Faisal Alam, the founder of Al-Fatiha, an international organization for queer Muslims with chapters in Canada, the US and Britain, in spirituality; Michelle Dumaresq, the former Canadian downhill mountain bike champion and the first transgendered athlete ever named to a national team, in sports; Jeremy Dias, who founded Sault Ste Marie’s first queer youth group and Jer’s Vision — which fights discrimination in schools and cities — in youth leadership; Douglas Elliott, a lawyer who led the fights for same-sex marriage and pension equality, for lifetime achievement; and the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal for representing Pride’s theme of Unified.

Chaiken and Alam are both Americans, but Singh says Pride has always tried to reach beyond Canada in the awards ceremony.

“It’s definitely not the first time we’ve had somebody international as a winner,” he says. “Last year the director of Transamerica [Duncan Tucker] was nominated and accepted.

“We try to keep it a mix. But I think it’s important to say there are a significant number of people in our community here who do important work in our community and internationally and it’s a shame we can’t recognize all of them.”

This year’s Pride gala will be hosted by comedienne Sandra Bernhard. Singh says her recent profile in Xtra may indicate a different performer.

“I hear she’s calmed down a bit,” he says. “That should be interesting to see.”