Pride Toronto’s members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping police out of this year’s and future parades, and to endorse all of Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demands.
The agenda for Pride’s annual general meeting (AGM) was initially set to focus on recapping last year’s highlights in its annual report and on a Q&A with prospective new board members. But members preferred to focus on Black Lives Matter and community concerns about accessibility, corporate sponsorship and anti-black racism.
Here’s Xtra’s recap of the AGM, which took place on Jan 17, 2017.
How did Pride Toronto agree to all of BLMTO’s demands?
Members Gwen Bartleman and Kami Chisholm asked Pride Toronto to officially endorse all of Black Lives Matter’s demands, “and commit to [it] in terms of practice, policy and funding priorities.”
But the meeting’s chair said the agenda could not be amended. Any additions must have been added 60 days prior to the meeting, said the chair, an outside facilitator brought in by Pride to run the AGM.
But several community members said they didn’t receive notice 60 days prior to the meeting.
After Bartleman successfully challenged the chair’s ruling, a large majority of attendees voted to add Black Lives Matter to the agenda.
Gary Kinsman, a long-time activist and a founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, said he was “strongly in favour of Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demands.”
Pride should not allow police in the parade due to their history of violence against various communities including black and indigenous communities, two-spirit people and trans folks, he said.
Police are still targeting men who have sex with men, he pointed out, citing the recent undercover sting at Marie Curtis Park.
Pride’s co-chair Alica Hall maintained that Pride Toronto was sticking to its promise to Black Lives Matter. “We made a commitment to Black Lives Matter’s demands. We have not made any new contradictions,” Hall said. “Our goal is to elect five new members who will continue this work and our commitment.”
After a heated debate, community members voted overwhelmingly to approve all of Black Lives Matter’s demands, including the one to remove all police floats or booths in all Pride marches, parades and community spaces.
During the Pride parade on July 3, 2016, BLMTO staged a 30-minute sit-in and asked that Pride Toronto sign a list of nine demands, the majority of which were to reinstate and fund programming as well as more hiring of queer and trans people of colour, and one asking for the removal of police from the parade. Hall and former executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed the list of demands, but the following day, Chantelois drew heavy criticism for saying that he only signed the demands to “make the parade move.” Chantelois later resigned on Aug 10.
Three days after the parade, Jacqie Lucas, a volunteer team lead, resigned in protest over the way Pride handled the Black Lives Matter demands. In September, Pride Toronto’s communications manager Victoria Schwarzl left the organization for a job at another company.
Removal of police from floats and booths has become a divisive issue within the LGBT community. It was heatedly discussed at Pride Toronto’s first town hall on Aug 30, when they announced that instead of removing police from Pride, they would leave the decision to a dispute resolution process. In September, they released a lengthy statement apologizing for wrongdoings, a history of anti-black racism and a lack of accessibility at the parade.
What is Pride doing about accessibility and ASL interpreters?
Board members were grilled on the lack of accessibility at Pride, in particular when it comes to ASL. Several community members said that the board needs to have a relationship with the deaf community, and to hire more interpreters from diverse backgrounds.
Pride co-chair Aaron GlynWilliams said that finding interpreters for events is an operational decision made by Pride Toronto staff, not the board. “There’s a strong desire for Pride Toronto to be as diverse as possible in our hiring,” he said, adding that interpreters are chosen depending on who is available at the time.
How are Pride Toronto’s finances?
Last year, Pride Toronto had 33 sponsors, all of which are returning for Pride 2017. These sponsors include major cultural attractions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum and Ripley’s Aquarium. Pride made $2,269,180 in sponsorships, an increase from 2015. Pride’s total revenue for last year totalled $4,409,478, compared to $3,104,906 in 2015.
GlynWilliams said Pride 2016 brought in $600 million in economic spending to Toronto.
However, community members expressed concerns over corporate sponsorship and their attempts to pinkwash for profit.
“The banks are not our friends,” said speaker Kami Chisholm, telling the audience that some trans customers have had issues with TD Canada Trust, one of Pride’s long-time sponsors.
Chisholm added that Pride should be more focused on returning to a more political, community-focused parade. “It flies in the face of everything we stand for in our communities,” Chisholm said. “It is not our job to fund the city’s economic development.”
Who’s leaving the board?
Treasurer Chris Tremeer, co-chair Aaron GlynWilliams and Dana Suvagau are stepping down as board members.
Who’s joining the board?
This year there were 13 candidates for the five available spots on Pride Toronto’s board. Ten were selected by the board recruitment committee — Paul Bozzo, Sarah Cooper, Nicole Desnoyers, Susan Gapka, Hussain Haider Ali, Robert Hampsey, Elijah Monroe, Kevin Rambally, Maurice Tomlinson and Kenneth Tong.
Three members — Rolyn Chambers, Joey Fascio and Akio Maroon — were not selected by the recruitment committee but secured 10 signatures to be eligible for election to the board.
Pride Toronto members voted to elect Akio Maroon, Sarah Cooper, Kevin Rambally, Nicole Desnoyers and Elijah Monroe as new members to the board.
When is Pride 2017?
This year, Pride will take place from June 1–24, 2017.