IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
Kevin Beaulieu: “We’d like to have this issue settled once and for all and provide stability,” says executive director of Pride Toronto Kevin Beaulieu.
For the third year in a row, the organization responsible for planning Toronto’s 10-day Pride festival faces the possible risk of losing its cultural funding from the city.
Last April, Toronto city council’s executive committee addressed the legalities of banning the words “Israeli apartheid” at city-funded events. The debate mirrors past attempts by a small contingent of city councillors to remove Pride’s municipal funding following the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in the Pride parade.
Despite city staff reports concluding the term “Israeli apartheid” is not a criminal offence and does not contravene city policy, the validity of Pride’s annual grant of $123,807 was still deferred to an executive committee meeting on May 27. Pride Toronto won’t know if it receives its allocation until June 11, a mere 10 days before the festival begins on June 21.
For Beaulieu, this is business as usual. “One of our biggest challenges is organizing the festival as far in advance without necessarily knowing what the budget will be,” he says.
Pride Toronto’s operating budget is $2 million. Would losing the city’s support put the organization in a tough situation? “Yes, it would,” says Beaulieu. “It might take a year or two to rebalance things.”
If funding falls flat, the backup plan is to rely on Pride’s accumulated surplus, which, says Beaulieu, “helps even out the bumps when they happen.” He adds that Toronto’s LGBT communities would likely “step up” if funding were ever jeopardized. Last year’s Pride festival pumped $214 million into the city’s economy—a big sell to city council.
But “money isn’t everything,” says Beaulieu. “We’re optimistic council will recognize the opportunity to connect with and show appreciation for our queer communities. The city has been supportive despite controversies in past years and we’re hopeful they continue to be so.
“We take nothing for granted, but I’m convinced good sense will prevail.”