3 min

Proposed Pride Toronto rule changes draw fire

Members ask for time to consider a membership fee and age restriction

The Dyke March's Laura Krahn explains the feedback she has heard from local queer and trans women. Credit: Andrea Houston

Pride Toronto (PT) members told the board to put the brakes on controversial bylaw changes that would institute a fee for membership, add an age restriction of 16 years or older, and no longer consider meetings volunteer hours.

The changes would alienate youth and people aged 40 and up, long-time PT member Lisa Duke told the board at the March 1 meeting at the Central YMCA. “This is entirely disrespectful to older members. If meetings are no longer considered volunteer hours, where does that leave people like me?” she asked. 

“I am really upset,” Duke said. “This would make people go through the membership process every year. Pride should honour its history. Elders like me represent the history of the organization.”

Furthermore, paying a membership fee could be financially impossible for some people, noted Ross Chapman. “Will Pride require people to produce a bank statement? That would be very embarrassing for people,” he said. 

Outreach committee member Giovanni Temansja agreed, noting that charging a fee could even put some youth in a dangerous position.

“It’s concerning because it could actually out youth to their families. Youth would have to ask their parents for money,” he said. “We want to make it easy and safe for youth to get involved in Pride.”

No dollar amount has been suggested for the fee, but the general consensus is that it should be less than $20.

The Dyke March’s Laura Krahn also objected to the proposed changes. At a time when PT needs to recruit volunteers, asking members to pay is not helpful, she said.

“We held an informal poll on the Dyke March Facebook page and the result was overwhelmingly against charging a fee,” she said. “It’s not so much the fee; it’s the timing. We need more time to discuss and consider it.”

On the other hand, member John Bell said it’s normal for large community organizations like Pride to charge a modest fee for membership. “Perhaps a sliding scale? Or pay what you can?” he proposed. 

Since the changes were rejected, the old bylaws remain in effect. These state that membership requires eight volunteer hours, attendance at three meetings – GMs or AGMs – and a nomination by the board, or members can be employees of PT. 

“It looks like we haven’t thought about how this will affect our volunteer recruitment,” board member Susan Gapka said. “Changes will not cause economic harm to anyone. I will not allow it as long as I am on this board.”

Board member Evan Dean, who presented the bylaw changes to about 25 members, said the board will take all the feedback into consideration before presenting the bylaw change again at the next AGM.

“After consulting with the community, the board will look at whether or not it wants to move forward with any of those changes,” he said. “We might find there is just no appetite for paid membership. Then it would be off the table. Tonight I heard from the membership that it’s not off the table, they just need more time to consider it.”

Three less contentious bylaw changes were approved. One change takes power out of the hands of the chair. It states, “Each member, or proxy holder for a member, is entitled to one vote. In the event of a tie vote, the motion shall be deemed to have lost.” Previously, the chair had the power of casting the deciding vote.

Prior to the meeting, PT decided to hold off on electing three new board members in the hope that more women would decide to run. Right now there is only one woman on the board.

Two woman were elected at the last AGM, but Paola Solorzano resigned in December for “personal reasons,” said co-chair Luka Amona. There was no public announcement because “she asked us not to talk about it publicly.”

The vacant board seats will remain empty until the next AGM, in October.

The board presented its audited financial statements, representing July 31, 2010, to July 31, 2011, which were released to Xtra Jan 28.

Members also cast their votes to decide on a theme for the 2012 festival. This year’s theme is Celebrate and Demonstrate and was submitted by Proud FM’s Acey Rowe. 

Past Pride themes include Dream Big, in 2011; Pride 30th Anniversary, in 2010; Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, in 2009; Unified! in 2008; Unstoppable! in 2007; and Fearless in 2006.