The reasons behind the shocking, last-minute cancellation of the Montreal Pride festival can be boiled down to a simple yet glaring oversight, according to the event’s lead organizer: a failure to hire security staff.
The parade was cancelled on Sunday morning, just hours before it was set to kick off.
In an interview with CBC Montreal’s Daybreak host Sean Henry, Simon Gamache said that was when he learned “about 100” security staff needed to monitor the parade route had never been hired.
“It was never done,” said Gamache, Montreal Pride’s executive director.
“It’s something we’re going to investigate. As you can imagine, we’re taking it very seriously. I don’t want to speculate at this moment,” he said.
“Obviously, I am the executive director for this organization so ultimately I am the person responsible for this.”
With tens of thousands of expected spectators and participants left disappointed — some holding impromptu events on their own — Gamache is left having to explain what went wrong, why and what it all means for the future of the organization.
Gamache, who has been executive director of the organization for less than a year, said Montreal Pride had enough resources to complete the hiring process, but for some reason the task was overlooked.
Sunday’s march would have been the city’s first large-scale Pride parade since the start of the pandemic.
Initially, Montreal Pride had tweeted that the decision to cancel the event was made in collaboration with Montreal police. The organization later corrected its statement, saying the decision was made by the organizers alone.
The cancellation caught a lot of people off guard, including Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
“If we had been made aware of the lack of staff or anything else, [we] would have put in the necessary energy,” the mayor said during a news conference on Sunday.
“My frustration this morning is realizing that it seems there were decisions made, but we were never informed, and that’s disappointing.”
In a tweet, Montreal police emphasized that it was not involved in the decision to cancel the parade and that it was ready to help with event security.
Organizer says it was too late
As a result of the abrupt cancellation, members of Montreal’s 2SLGBTQIA+ communities immediately started co-ordinating off-site events.
A sit-in at Place Émilie-Gamelin in the city’s downtown core was planned to protest the cancellation. A crowd of would-be parade-goers gathered there to march down Ste-Catherine Street.
“We were promised a place for our voices to be heard and now it’s been taken away,” said Salem Billard, a queer activist who planned the protest. “We’re now living through so much violence, even going to Pride events.… And we want to take back that place as our home and not a corporate festival [event].”
It was impossible to salvage the event, since so many people would have needed to be hired but also trained in just a matter of hours, Gamache said.
“There’s a whole [set of] logistics around this event. It’s not simple. And we felt that we could not ensure a safe parade for the community,” he said.
When asked how the cancellation would affect his future as Montreal Pride’s executive director, Gamache said “I am not the one deciding.”
“I want to stay. I was hired last September to restructure this organization and that takes several years to do,” he said.
The executive director said the event’s sponsors have been supportive and none of them have asked for their money back.