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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

PRIDE VOICES: It Takes A Village To Save A Village

Toronto will need to come together once again in solidarity to make this happen…

By Pride Toronto

To walk down the street and visit the restaurants and shops in the Church & Wellesley Village, for many of us, is akin to walking through the rooms and corridors of our own family home. The village is where our communities gather to share our experiences, our stories, our joys and our struggles. Our bars are steeped in history. Our stages are full of passion. The restaurants are our family dinner table. The shops carry and proliferate our culture. The spaces in between are where life’s small moments help connect us.

For 40 years, Pride Toronto has been honoured to call the village home. The Pride festival is, in some ways, our incredible annual house party, where we invite the world to experience the magic of this place and its people.

To help keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 global health crisis, we have moved to a virtual Pride experience. While we are excited about the new possibilities for expression and access that this approach will create, the impact on the village will be incredibly difficult. So many of our local businesses depend on Pride festival crowds to get them through the slower times of the year.

COVID-19 has brought with it a confluence of crises for LGBT2Q+ communities. Job losses, housing losses, fear, anxiety, and loss of support for vulnerable individuals are part of the current reality. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association reports that homophobic and transphobic attacks have increased dramatically. Egale Canada’s national study, The Impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQI2S Community, reveals the depth of some of the challenges in startling statistics:
– 52% of Canada’s LGBT2Q+ households have faced layoffs or reduced employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as compared to 39% of overall Canadian households.
– 53% of the LGBT2Q+ community do not feel confident in their current household’s financial situation, as compared to 40% of non-LGBT2Q+ people.

The effects of the crisis on the cultural and economic fabric of the village are just as pronounced. The Church Wellesley BIA remains in close conversation and collaboration with our community of businesses, and the situation is dire. Rents in the village are higher than on Yonge Street, and so many local bars, restaurants and shops operate on razor-thin margins even in the best of times. The spectre of losing a large number of LGBT2Q+ businesses is real as the weeks roll by without income or strong government support. This is a reality we cannot let come to pass.

This is not a crisis that’s limited to the geographic boundaries of our neighbourhood. The village is a beacon and a promise for every LGBT2Q+ kid in the far reaches of Canada. It is the destination that global tourists give their cab driver when they land at Pearson. It is the centre of gravity for those who’ve moved away but still know they can always return. This home has space for all of us and it requires protecting.

Pride Toronto works closely with The Village BIA to create an incredible experience for the 1.7 million festival attendees. We are proud to be able to work with such resilient business owners who serve our community 365 days of the year and contribute to the history and survival of the village.

Last week, Pride Toronto announced the launch of our online vendor portal: a curated list of local LGBTQ2S+ makers, creators and vendors that you have come to expect and are excited to see throughout our annual StreetFair. We have also introduced a number of Virtual Pride programming celebrating these makers, including a weekly unboxing of various items available in our online vendor market, hosted by Max Claude and Mango Sassi.

During this time of uncertainty, supporting LGBT2Q+ communities is more important than ever. In order to continue our support of LGBTQ2+ business owners and makers during this difficult time, Pride Toronto has launched a few exciting initiatives as part of the Virtual Pride programming. Though we are excited about these initiatives, we also know that it won’t be enough.

There are tangible and actionable steps that can be taken to save the businesses, culture and support systems within the village. It will take government financial aid, suspension of commercial evictions, community support and a long-term recovery support strategy, to name a few.

We are hopeful that work can be done to save Toronto’s village. Our communities will need to come together once again in solidarity to make this happen. As the Church Wellesley BIA said, “It takes a Village to save the Village.”

*This article is part of our Pride Voices series: We reached out to Pride organizations from coast to coast and asked them for their messages of support to the LGBTQ2S community, as a reminder that Pride is more than just a parade.

PRIDE TORONTO supports our communities in the pursuit of our unequivocal rights to be known, be heard, be understood, be accepted, be respected, and to celebrate the beauty of who we are.

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