Organizers of Capital Pride are worried the City of Ottawa’s proposed expanded smoking ban will hurt attendance at this summer’s Pride festival.
The proposed bylaw, which city council plans to implement by spring, will effectively prohibit smoking in all outdoor areas under the city’s jurisdiction, including Marion Dewar Plaza, the venue for Capital Pride celebrations.
“If the proposed bylaw goes through, we hope that this year’s festival season will have a grace period and [provide] education from Public Health for all festival attendees,” says Loresa Novy, chair of Capital Pride.
Alluding to health studies that have been published in recent years, Capital Pride committee members say that smoking rates are approximately twice as high in the gay community as the general population. They worry that the proposed ban could discourage a significant portion of the community from attending the festival site.
They say they are aware of the negative impacts of smoking and stress they are not opposed to an eventual expansion of the existing smoking ban. They would, however, like to see a graduated approach to the implementation of the bylaw.
“As a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization, we are concerned about being responsible for enforcement of the proposed bylaw. If we were to be fined, there would be serious financial repercussions for our festival,” Novy says.
She says having a designated smoking area on the festival grounds would allow Pride attendees time to adjust to the ban while the committee raises awareness.