3 min

The mission to rescue Pride

Board resigns, interim measures proposed

PRIDE 2002. The most successful Ottawa Pride Festival left the Pride Committee in financial ruins. Credit: Colin Seaman

The stormy saga of Ottawa’s Pride Committee continued as the entire board of directors resigned last month, casting doubts on this year’s festivities.

Chairman Ghislain Rousseau submitted a letter of resignation on Mar 12, citing what he referred to as “internal sabotage,” frustration with the Pride deficit of at least $40,000 and the threat of civil lawsuits.

Then at a Mar 26 meeting of the Pride Committee, the rest of the board followed suit, resigning en masse.

In the wake of the resignations, the membership at the meeting appointed an interim chair to serve until the next meeting on Sun, Apr 13.

Robin Duetta, last year’s coordinator of Pride Town Square, was named the interim chair by acclamation after it became clear no one else wanted the position. Duetta’s task will be to try to re-assemble the bits and pieces of what’s left of the Pride Festival and the Pride organization.

“I’m consulting broadly with the community and businesses,” says Duetta. “We’re getting legal advice, we’re speaking with our creditors and the community at large to see what is important to them, what priorities we want to set, what we want out of Pride and out of this function. And the community is speaking loudly.”

Despite all of the problems, Duetta is confident Pride 2003 will occur this summer.

“Pride will happen regardless,” says Duetta. “Pride doesn’t depend on people dancing in the middle of the street. Pride is the reason we do those things. As for a festival, the community will make that decision and I’m confident that there will be a large event this year.”

“There is enough of a desire in the community to make sure that there will be Pride,” agrees city councillor Alex Munter.

“Obviously, festivals bring life and people into the downtown,” comments Munter. “They are good for the community and good for our spirits, not just for the GLBT community but for the whole Ottawa community. There’s really a strong desire in the community to make sure we continue to have a Pride Festival in Ottawa.”

A motion to appoint an interim chair was introduced by Capital Xtra’s publisher and editor-in-chief Brian Gallant, who proposed a new agenda at the beginning of the meeting that would focus on rescuing Pride rather than a public debate on past difficulties.

“Pride is not just an event, it’s a movement,” declared Gallant, who garnered support from Munter. “It’s 30 years in the making.”

Gallant and Munter both strongly urged the membership to postpone discussion of bankruptcy and board elections until Duetta could make his report.

According to the interim chair, the Committee’s financial statement is actually looking positive.

“Things are going great,” assures Duetta. “There’s $4,400 from HRDC employment opportunities. It’s money that the Pride Committee gets back from employing people in the program.”

Mark Monahan, chair of the Festival Network and executive director of the Cisco Systems Bluesfest, is less optimistic.

“What I feel Pride is running into now is the bottom line,” says Monahan. “How do you put on an event? You may have thousands of people going, but it is not a profitable venture. That’s why an enormous amount of festivals are run as non-profit groups.”

Monahan also stated that because so many committee boards are volunteer-based, it’s often the case that visionaries take the place of more business-minded participants.

The Pride Festival’s creditors are remaining patient for the time being, and some have reduced what is owed to them, believing they will benefit from a festival as well-attended as last year’s.

“A lot of hard work was put into making Pride 2002 the success that it was,” says Duetta. Last year’s festival drew roughly 100,000 people. “The community responded and we saw how excited people got over what happened there. The creditors saw that success as well.”

Duetta reports that sponsorship interest in Pride 2003 is very positive. “There’s an obvious willingness to back the Pride Festival again this year.”

Local businesses that have traditionally supported Pride are banding together to plan their own events. Wilde’s, recognized for providing some of the best entertainment during Pride week, is hosting The Big Shiny Ball on Sat, Jul 12 at the NAC. Details of the big bash have yet to be confirmed.

A special general meeting of the membership of the Pride Committee is scheduled for Sun, Apr 13 at 4pm in the Councillor’s Lounge at City Hall.