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Pride Toronto’s new interim ED faces huge challenge

'My job is not to fuck it up': Glen Brown

Pride Toronto's new interim executive director, Glen Brown. Credit: G. Brown

Pride Toronto’s (PT) new interim executive director is letting staff take the lead in planning this year’s festival, likening himself to a “conductor of an extremely talented orchestra.”

Glen Brown, who has held senior posts in the not-for-profit sector for the past 20 years, says he is “excited and daunted” to have been tapped to be the person to wade through the minefield of PT and get the organization back on track.

On April 12, his first day on the job, he met with PT coordinators at their monthly meeting. “I got to reach a conclusion very quickly that a lot of the planning is well in hand,” he tells Xtra. “My job is not to fuck it up. Don’t let me get in the way if you have a plan and you know what you’re doing.”

PT is on very shaky ground right now. It finished 2010 with a $431,808 budget deficit, and city funding is currently in jeopardy. Festival organizers warn there will be consequences if PT stays in the red — most notably, the loss of World Pride in 2014.

Brown calls himself an organizer, a facilitator and a communicator, vital skills for the rebuilding of PT. “There is an enormous group of people, both paid and volunteer, who help to put the festival on, so I get to hopefully bring my skills in to help them all move this beast forward.”

Prior to running a consulting firm, Brown served as senior manager at the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), and before that he was interim executive director for the AIDS Committee of Toronto. He has been a board member in many community organizations, including AIDS Action Now, the Canadian AIDS Society, the 519 Church Street Community Centre and the Wellesley Institute.

With all eyes on city council next week, Brown says he is holding his breath with the rest of the community. “I’m not skilled at gazing into crystal balls. The challenge we face is huge. In fact, the decisions that get made by the city in the coming months could not only jeopardize this year’s festival, but the very viability of the organization. We are fully aware of that situation.” Brown says he is actively calling on the community right now to put the pressure on city council.

Brown stresses that he would never have accepted the role if he wasn’t certain PT is on the right track. “My integrity is a big deal to me. So I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t have confidence that the organization wants to move to a different place than where it was.”

Brown joined PT co-chair Francisco Alvarez, Community Advisory Panel member Michael Went and Proud of Toronto organizer Michael Bach at city council on April 13 to hear Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti pledge to lead the charge to defund the parade beginning next week.

The promise follows the release of the city manager’s report that states, “City staff have determined that the phrase ‘Israeli apartheid’ in and of itself does not violate the City’s Anti-discrimination policy.” Mammoliti’s motion is expected to pass. The motion would then head to council in May or June.

PT has been without an executive director since January after the abrupt departure of Tracey Sandilands, who held the position through one of the most tumultuous years in the organization’s history, including two attempts by the organization’s board to censor Pride parade participants. In December, Xtra named Sandilands Toronto Newsmaker of the Year.