A lot of us are angry with the Vancouver Pride Society, that’s clear. We got a letter from Donna Thomason, owner of Ms T’s. After citing the litany of horrors in the mismanagement of the Society for the past couple of years, Thomason opposes an appeal to come help bail out the organization that puts on the annual parade.
Thomason is not alone. I’ve heard comments from literally dozens of people over the past few months, people who are not yet in a forgiving mood.
They’ve got a lot to be angry about. VPS is one of the most important not-for-profit societies in Vancouver. They put on a party, an affirmation of Gay is Good, that is vital to our community.
The board of directors of the VPS, and any BC-registered society for that matter, has a legal responsibility for the financial health of the organization. They have a legal responsibility to ensure all laws are being followed. They have a legal responsibility to ensure that documents are filed annually with the provincial government.
They’ve failed to adequately do so for at least two years. Furthermore, they developed a nasty habit of denying serious problems, substituting “spin” for openness.
So it wouldn’t be unreasonable, on the face of it, to tell the VPS to take a hike as they ask us to buy memberships, attend fundraisers and volunteer as they pay down a $106,000 deficit, prepare this year’s festivities and work to stabilize the organization and prepare it for long-term health.
But I think that would be a mistake. There’s a new, apparently more responsible, and clearly more professional board of directors this year. Only the president and vice-president are holdovers from last year and, let’s face it, that’s necessary for continuity even if they were clearly part of creating the mess. At Xtra West, we’ve found a more open attitude on the part of the executive than in past years. The board, particularly treasurer Barry Piersdorff, has poured their spare time into developing a business plan for this year.
Problems still remain, though, as the recent resignation of the secretary points out. And the Society’s connection to the community still appears fragile; only seven volunteers showed last weekend for a meeting.
The Pride Parade is perhaps our most important annual event in Vancouver. It serves a vital function for people of all ages who are in the process of coming out. It’s a concrete example of community coming together to celebrate our sexual and cultural diversity. It’s Vancouver’s second largest public event and a major tourism draw. We make new friends, meet lovers and sex partners there. We inhale the positive atmosphere, some of us feeding off the experience for months.
It’s time to move forward. As long as the VPS continues to become more responsible, more open and accountable, we should give it our support. After all, they’re putting on a party for all of us. The new board has come clean on the screw-ups, apologized, sought talent, put plans in place. What more do we want? Blood?
This is our party. Each of us-yes, you and me-need remember that no one magically provides everything we have come to enjoy: it’s volunteers who fight the legal fights, work to create community policing, run sports leagues and put on the Pride Parade. We have a right to expect, as financial contributors, that they act responsibly and legally. And this paper will continue to do its job reporting and critiquing their mistakes as well as their successes.
On the other hand, it’s everyone’s responsibility-including the critics-to help pay the costs or to volunteer to help.
Let’s save this institution. Buy a membership. Attend fundraisers. Enter the parade. Party at the festival. Volunteer. Please, for all of us. But most especially, for yourself.
Reach the Vancouver Pride Society at 604.687.0955. Or www.vanpride.bc.ca.
* Tickets for the Community Heroes Awards are now on sale at Little Sister’s and Kokopelli’s Hair Salon. It’s Sun, May 25 at Bar None, 1222 Hamilton St at Davie. Meet, Greet and Eat is at 6 pm. Ceremony starts at 7 pm. Cabaret performances by dancer Alvin Tolentino, GLASS Youth Choir, Miss Cookie, jazz singer Sarah Zacharias and Ivan E Coyote. Tunes by DJ Eddie Toonflash. Ceremonies hosted by Morgan Brayton, formerly of 30 Helens. Come applaud our community’s volunteers. See you there.
Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.