4 min

Public CAP wrapped up; now what?

Suspicions raised about "private" targeted sessions

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes Credit: Andrea Houston

So now the waiting begins.

After five public consultation sessions attended by hundreds of community members, the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) now begins the gargantuan task of disseminating all your feedback into a final report with recommendations for Pride Toronto (PT) by the end of January or early February.

The online surveys and Facebook comments will continue to be collected, and the panel will continue to meet with community groups privately for targeted consultations, says Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes.

To date, more than 1,000 surveys have been collected, Hawkes says. More than 20 targeted consultations have been scheduled so far for the next couple weeks, and the panel will continue to schedule sessions until Jan 15.

Not surprisingly, one of those targeted groups is Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), whom the panel met with on Dec 13, says panel member and founder of Nichola Ward.

“It was challenging to keep the conversation on Pride,” she says. “It was a very difficult meeting, but people have to feel they have had a say in the process.”

At the panel session geared to the trans community, Hawkes pledged to post a list of all the groups on the CAP website that are requesting targeted meetings. He did not say if the list will be complete, or when the community can expect to see it.

“We didn’t ask the groups for permission to release [the group’s] names,” he told Xtra. “The list will be made public, at the latest when the panel releases its report.”

Several people at different panel sessions raised questions about the groups asking for privacy. Some are suspicious that unsupportive straight groups, corporations and businesses or religious groups with agendas are unjustly influencing the process.

Kim Koyama asked why there was a need for all the privacy in the first place.

“I understand the need for privacy for an individual. That’s fine,” Koyama says. “But I can’t imagine why any group participating in this process wouldn’t want to be named.”

Panel member Angela Robertson says the panel will “strenuously argue against” groups remaining secret if the request is made. It raises suspicion, she says.

“It calls the whole process into question,” she says. “We will stress to them the importance of transparency.”

Hawkes says the panel has been “casting a wide net,” trying to reach out to all possible stakeholders, gay and straight.

“We’re not letting any one group dictate to us,” he says. “We are meeting with non-gay groups as well.”

On the CAP Facebook group, several people are calling for the panel to release the full list of targeted consultations as soon as possible.

Ward tells Xtra that the panel is working at maximum capacity and simply does not have the manpower to tackle all the work that needs to be done all at once. She asks that people be patient. The list will be released soon, she says.

There have been about 300 to 400 people that have attended the five public sessions. With the exception of a few people who included their name on the questionnaire, Hawkes says the panel has collected no names from people.

The panel will meet Dec 16 to begin the process of disseminating all the collected data, he says.

The size of the report and an exact release date has not been determined yet, he says. In the report, the panel will keep the focus on six main points: corporate inclusion, entertainment, PT’s relationship with the community, PT’s structure, the purpose of PT and the larger question of “who owns PT,” Hawkes says.

“Is it the Church and Wellesley community? The broader LGBT community? Is there a consensus in the community?” he asks. “We know one thing: it’s not owned by the audience that comes to watch the parade. But, who gets a say in what Pride is?

“The amount of work we have collected is staggering. The panels have provided us with a very good, diverse group of people.”

But some have concerns about those who may want to get their hands on the panel’s report and findings.

Koyama questions why corporate sponsors are waiting for CAP results. “Corporate sponsors should not be determining the shape of our Pride,” he says.

Syrus Marcus Ware says he worries about how the panel will analyze the feedback and whether the information will be used for unsavoury purposes in the future.

“PT as an organization is not functioning properly,” Ware says. “I see your report going to the desks of the same people who roll their eyes at us. I’m concerned we keep coming back to the same problem. And I’m really concerned about how all this will be filtered down.”

The panel’s recommendations, while not binding by PT, could be used to influence the city’s decisions on funding.

The CAP fact-finding mission came about as part of PT’s June resolution to rescind its censorous ban on the phrase “Israeli apartheid” in the Pride parade. Made up of “LGBTTIQQ2SA leaders and friends,” PT says, the panel is to consult with the community and make recommendations “regarding Pride Toronto’s ongoing working relationship with the broader LGBTTIQQ2SA communities.”

The panel is appointed after a list of 15 potentials were submitted to and approved by the PT board in August. The final nine panellists were selected because they’re non-polarizing figures in the community.

At the racialized session, Casey Oraa, an activist with Queer Ontario, announces he’s there only as a community member.

Queer Ontario is boycotting the CAP consultations since announcing in August that “the panel is fundamentally flawed and inconsistent with the values and principles of community relations and community engagement.”

Oraa says the process been problematic from the beginning because PT approved the panel members. He asked the panel if PT was presented with a list of choices.

At first Robertson and Ward denied that PT had any approval powers, which contradicts previous comments in Xtra by Hawkes, who told Xtra that a list of 15 potentials was submitted to and approved by the PT board of directors.

The complete list of panel choices has never been released.

Later, Ward admits to Xtra she probably misspoke.

“Brent came up with a list of names. Pride was given the list and said it looks good, but they had no veto power. From there, Brent went off to find people.”

“Did they approve it? That’s not my perspective.”

She also points out, “I was not approved [as a panel member]. I was not their first choice. I’ve had no contact with Pride whatsoever.”

Hawkes left the consultation early to be with his partner, who is ill.

When Xtra asks whether the panel plans to recommend that executive director Tracey Sandilands resign and the board be restructured, Ward doesn’t say, only that she “has very strong opinions.”

“There’s lots to be said for starting with a clean slate,” she tells Xtra. “The honorable thing would be to start with a clean slate. Many of the problems are systemic.”