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Queer Ontario Releases its Pride Toronto Evaluation Report

May 16th, 2011

Requests meeting with Pride Toronto in light of its current questionable mechanisms


QUEER ONTARIO has just released its Pride Toronto Evaluation Report featuring 94 recommendations designed to clean up and democratize Pride Toronto’s governance and planning processes, as promised in our boycott of the Community Advisory Panel back in August of 2010. Based on the feedback Queer Ontario received from an internal qualitative survey we conducted in January – a copy of which has been appended to the report –  these recommendations address a number of critical concerns that were brought forward by our respondents: from the organization’s failure to live up to its terms of reference and its inability to protect the needs and interests of its constituent communities; to the micromanagerial and censorial way in which it has been organizing the Pride Festival.

Indeed, there is a need and urgency for the Queer Ontario Report given that it provides a number of counter-points to the recommendations set out in the report produced by the Community Advisory Panel (CAP). For while we commend many of the recommendations put forward by the CAP in its report – a number of which were congruent with ours – we also feel it houses some rather troubling ones that compromise the expressive freedoms of Toronto’s LGBTQ communities. These include:

1. The Anti-Discrimination Policy (Recommendation 115)
While fine in principle, the requirement to have Pride marchers and parade participants sign Pride Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy needs to be interrogated on two fronts. On the one hand, as an attempt by Pride Toronto to curtail unfavourable political, sexual, or artistic expression, especially since its anti-discrimination policy differs so widely from that of the City of Toronto. And secondly, as a measure of how much Pride Toronto is trying to appease its ‘allies’ – individuals and groups that should in theory be 100% accepting, understanding, and supportive of the Pride Festival and everything it stands for.

2. The CAP Implementation / Policy Advisory Committee (Recommendation 26)
While we welcome the formation of a Policy Advisory Committee, which will help Pride Toronto develop new policies to become a more efficient and responsive organization, we question how effective this Committee will be if its mandate is also to properly implement all the CAP’s recommendations. Indeed, we can only hope the Committee members have the acuity to apprehend problematic recommendations given that no public process was put in place to nominate, debate, or elect its members – just like Community Advisory Panel in September of 2010, and the Dispute Resolution Panel in April of 2011.

3. The Dispute Resolution Process (Recommendation 129-131)
Lastly: we cannot help but notice that the principles of the Ethics Committee that was formed and later rescinded by Pride Toronto in 2010 are being revived in the Dispute Resolution Process. Although instead of making the review process one that is administered by Pride Toronto, before the Parade, and mandatory for all participants, the Dispute Resolution Process now transfers the regulatory powers onto a body of legal experts, after the parade, and only once a community group has filed a complaint against another. So much for ‘building community’.

Of course, were the Pride Toronto Board more personally engaged with its constituent communities and more knowledgeable about who does or does not comprise Toronto’s ‘LGBTQ community’ (and why), such a Resolution Process would not be necessary in the first place. Pride Toronto’s ability to confidently and articulately defend a group’s participation in the Parade would suffice in these trying cases.

Since these three mechanisms represent a threat to the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression Toronto’s LGBTQ communities have fought so long to secure – a history that Pride Toronto should be conscious of given its commitment to ‘build upon’ and ‘celebrate’ the history of Toronto’s LGBTQ communities – we are calling on Pride Toronto to halt its ‘wholesale’ implementation of the CAP recommendations and to continue its dialogue with Toronto’s LGBTQ communities. Not only to receive more systematic feedback on the CAP Report and the consultation process that begot it, but to also receive and consider other recommendations which were not included in the CAP Report – be it because of the unconsultative way in which the Community Advisory Panel was struck; or the corporatist, political, or class biases of its members.

We call on Pride Toronto, then, to revisit its own mission statement which still remains committed to celebrating all of Toronto’s LGBTQ communities, regardless of their identities, politics, or expressions. After all, a mission to celebrate the diversity of Toronto’s LGBTQ community includes a commitment to unapologetically encourage the display of all kinds of LGBTQ expression – from the fun and the frivolous to the ‘political’, the ‘controversial,’ the ‘shocking.’ Especially if one of Pride Toronto’s values is to celebrate its constituent communities with “provocative, racy, and outrageous events.”

Indeed, it is time for Pride Toronto to reverse the resentful and community-phobic approach it has been using to guide the organization over the last five years, and to begin a more responsive, and respectful, era of Pride-community relations.

The public is welcome to provide feedback and commentary on the Queer Ontario Report via the Queer Ontario website, and are encouraged to share their own concerns and recommendations with the Pride Toronto Board, directly.


Queer Ontario is a provincially based network of individuals who are members of the gender and sexually diverse populations and their allies committed to liberationist and sex positive principles that focus on questioning, challenging and seeking reform to social norms and laws that regulate queer people. Queer Ontario engages in public education, political action, promoting access and diversity and coalition building.

Nick Mulé
Queer Ontario

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