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Public vote nixed for parade marshals at Pride Toronto meeting

Few tense moments, despite a handful of contentious motions

The public meetings of gay community groups can rapidly degenerate into cathartic cleansings or bitter grudge matches. Those with bones to pick with queer nonprofits often choose public meetings like AGMs as the place to air their grievances publicly.

That makes Pride Toronto’s Feb 11 meeting of the members a peculiarity. There were few tense moments, even as organizers pushed through a handful of contentious motions.

After little debate and a single vote, it was decided that Pride Toronto’s grand marshals, honoured dykes and honoured groups will no longer be selected by public voting at a special general meeting. Instead, past honorees will select the recipients, meaning the decisions will be left to power-gays like Mark Tewksbury, Irshad Manji and Brent Hawkes.

Fears of ballot-box stuffing appeared to be at the heart of the rationale.

“I do think that it makes a lot of sense, rather than having people come out to one meeting to vote and then leave,” said a Pride volunteer from the floor.

The 519 Centre’s Matthew Cutler will spearhead the new process, with nominees accepted from the public, vetted by Pride, then passed on to a jury of those eligible to vote.

Before the meeting, Pride volunteers handed out a press release (and then tried to rescind it) that claimed the process would “better advance the mission and vision” of Pride.

“The honoured positions selection process is one of community involvement and engagement, and we are committed to maintaining that tradition and connection,” said Tracey Sandilands, Pride Toronto’s executive director, in the document.

Sandilands also presented the nonprofit’s financials. Pride Toronto has gone through a period of extraordinary growth over the past two years, doubling from a $1.5 million company to a $3 million company in two years. These changes have not been without growing pains, including a worsening cash position in 2008 and a $140,000 net loss in 2009. Click here to download full copies of the 2009 financial figures.

Sandilands provided an update on money that was set aside to deal with a disputed contract. Although she declined to name the group, she said that one business contact felt Pride Toronto owed them $150,000. The matter was settled for about 10 percent of that amount.

“I think we won,” Sandilands told the membership.

Pride board member Mark Singh made a presentation about preparations for World Pride, which will be hosted by Toronto in 2014. The presentation, a short version of the one Pride gave to outside stakeholders, including World Pride organizers, implied that Pride Toronto had control over third-party events like the AIDS candlelight vigil.

When Cutler pointed out that statements like that give Toronto Pride “a reputation” for being imperial, Singh nodded and apologized, saying that the full version of the presentation was clearer.

Overall, there were few questions from the floor.

“You guys are a quiet group tonight,” Singh said.