Will Toronto Pride Segregate The Parade Between True Activists And Big Corporate Sponsors?

Pride parades, started back in New York City in 1969 as a way to celebrate the LGBT community and raise visibility, now often carry the reputation of being a giant corporate billboard and an excuse to PNP. Toronto Pride, which is basically falling apart thanks to financial mishaps and organizational failures, not to mention a wee little scandal involving the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, is going to try and change all that. A return to grassroots activism and celebrations! Good luck with that.

Toronto’s Pride Week faces a sweeping overhaul in the wake of a report recommending the festival abandon its “bigger is better” philosophy to avoid the controversy, financial problems and infighting that marred last year’s event. The report, created by an external group called the Community Advisory Panel, concluded the 10-day festival aimed at celebrating diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity had “veered from the core principles and goals” last year and alienated many of the communities it is supposed to honour.

The panel behind the report was created to address the problems that dogged last year’s festival, which ran from the final week of June and ended on July 4 with the city’s vaunted Pride Parade. A controversy over the inclusion of a group protesting Israeli policy, the loss of federal funding and overspending created a climate of uncertainty and have led to reluctance from external fundraisers to contribute, the report said. Richard Ryder, a morning show host at the Proud FM radio station, says many people in the gay and lesbian community have lost faith in Pride. “They feel it’s become too corporate. It’s not about being gay, it’s about being a lot of things,” he said after the report was released Thursday evening.

So what’s gonna change?

Well nothing, right off the bat, for these are only “recommendations.” But the report suggests things like creating more specific guidelines for who is allowed to participate — oh, and “splitting the parade into three groups, including one classification that specifically addresses sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, a diverse array of groups, including those that aren’t focused specifically on issues surrounding sexual orientation, march in the parade.”

Because that’s going to solve anything. Surely something calling itself Canadian Immigration for Same Sex Couples deserves to be included in the “true activists” group. But who’s going to determine whether a gay club’s float “specifically addresses sexual orientation and gender identity”? How about a liquor company? If not, do Woody’s and Absolut and Polar Ice Vodka have to move to the back of the … parade? That’s gonna go over well.

[CBC; photos via, via]