EDMONTON (CITYNEWS) – A colourful festival celebrating the LGBTQ2S+ community won’t be returning to Edmonton this year.
The Edmonton Pride Festival Society (EPFS) says its board of directors has decided to cancel the 2019 parade and party due to the “current political and social environment”, but there has been criticism from other groups about whether or not that’s the real reason.
A CityNews viewer sent us a copy of the email the EPFS sent to its members informing them of the cancellation.
In it, the society says “It has always been the goal of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society to host a safe and enjoyable event that is reflective and encompassing of the entire community as possible; however, given current events, we do not feel that this is attainable for this year.”
— Carly Robinson (@CarlyDRobinson) April 11, 2019
The board of directors calls this a difficult time and thanks the LGBTQ2S+ community for being patient and understanding.
“We greatly appreciate all the support you have given to the Edmonton Pride Festival Society and we sincerely apologize for any upset and inconvenience this causes. We would like to use this opportunity to remind you that there are many other excellent LGBTQ2S+ organizations that will be putting on Pride events during the month of June. Should you desire to still sponsor Pride events, we would be happy to help connect you with these groups.”
The email also says anyone who donated to the event will be refunded within the next month.
Reaction on Twitter has been pouring in–one person writes “this is what happens with extremes are allowed to influence public policy.”
Many people on Twitter are sharing their disbelief and their sadness at the news.
“This is beyond disappointing, it’s devasting for so many that not only look for fun in a safe space but for those still finding themselves. Those who are questioning, closeted and now won’t see that beautiful public display of acceptance,” tweets Jed Johns–a sentiment shared by many.
“This is what happens when extremes are allowed to influence public policy. Extreme left and extreme right. Tearing apart an event that is supposed to bring love and create allies is instead at a flashpoint. I’m so, so disappointed it’s come to this,” said Robbie Kreger-Smith.
“I’m on the verge of tears hearing the cancellation of @YEGPride,” writes user Dylan Chevalier.
If @YEGPride really did “cancel” pride. They really don’t understand why people need it.
— Marceline ?????? Com-Persian Catgirl (@Deadshot_queen) April 11, 2019
I am disappointed to hear this year’s Pride Festival has been cancelled. As the first Mayor of Edmonton to march in the parade I know how important these events are. We need more of them, not fewer. #yegpride #yeg #ChooseYourAlberta #abvote pic.twitter.com/lPMuU8tvon
— Stephen Mandel (@SMandel_AB) April 11, 2019
#yegPride is cancelled for 2019? Given the current state of #ABPoli #ABvote2019 and the ?? in general, so critical now more than ever. Hoping (and willing to take part) in some sort of creative solution. #yeg #yegevents pic.twitter.com/ZpvlCunkW7
— Jeff Chase (@chase_jeff) April 11, 2019
#yegPride ??????cancelled? ???? I echo @SMandel_AB when he says we need MORE of these events not less. I’m so very sad to hear this. As a proud EPSB member who supports GSA and walks in the parade to show my/all students support…I’m heartbroken ??
— Lisa F. (@heavensangelost) April 11, 2019
— I Heart Edmonton (@iheartedmonton) April 11, 2019
So incredibly sad that #yegpride is cancelled this year. However, it looks like the committee was not inclusive at all. I’m sure there’s so much more we don’t yet know about. Hopefully something can be organized including POC and all members of the LGBTQIA2+ community.
— Haley (@Haley_Kawaii) April 11, 2019
“I’m shocked that canceling the # festival is even a consideration. I don’t think this sets a good precedent at all,” tweeted Alexandria Pankratz-Brown.
Pride Society accused of racism, transphobia
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Pride Festival and Pride Society of Edmonton has been surrounded in controversy after being accused by other LGBTQ groups of racism and transphobia.
Shades of Colour and Radical Queer Scholar speculate there’s more to the cancellation than meets the eye and are calling EPFS to be honest about its true reasoning.
Shades of Colour is calling the decision appalling.
“We are calling this decision for what it is: namely, a disavowal of deep systematic problems in the framework of EPFS as well as an attempt to dismiss, target, and put out of play the efforts put on the part of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in the LGBTQ2S+ to point towards alternatives on how this organization carries out its activities…
“With the awareness that the Executive Directors of multiple 2SLGBTQ+ organizations and institutions are meeting on April 10th, we stress that systematic restructuring of these organizations is in order. With consistent failures to rise to occasions of accountability, we plead for taking a look at what these organizations have become of themselves under its current frameworks.”
Shades of Colour was recently locked out of a meeting.
Shades of Colour had approached the Pride Society about adding more people of colour and more trans people to the parade.
Radical Queer Scholar, which was also barricaded from a recent Pride meeting, posted to Facebook responding to the abrupt cancellation. The group suggests that the reason the party was cancelled might be due to tensions with underrepresented groups.
It says the Pride Society has a “historic and current context of racism, white supremacy, transphobia, and ultimately (and literally) stonewalling QTBIPOC folks.”
“Recently (and since the Pride Protest that stopped the parade in 2018), communities such as Shades of Colour Community YEG and Organization for all Lgbtiq+ refugees in Canada were working with the Pride Festival Society to meet their demands (for representation, resources, funding, and a voice) – which had been seemingly and prospectively hopeful until April 2019. The Board of Directors of the Pride Festival Society blocked the QTBIPOC members and allies, called the police on them, and failed to be responsible or accountable.
The Pride Centre of Edmonton has been behaving similarly, and due to an outpouring of criticism of them, has since shut down their social media.”
People are echoing the opinions of Shades of Colour and Radical Queer Scholar on social media–some going so far as to call the EPFS “cowards”.
“If # can’t survive basic dialogue with the PoC members of the community, then it doesn’t deserve to live. As for me, I’m excited about what will take its place,” writes one person.
“I think this is an important turning point in the pride culture we have perpetuated over the years. Pride was founded upon fighting for rights of QTBIPOC, and was started by one. This needs to happen so that we can collectively move forward in a positive direction. #
“Allies please take note. Its not an easy fix to just plan another parade unless QTBIPOC folks are included. Who is your parade for? #.”
— M. Marano (@madisonmarano) April 11, 2019
This thread explains EXACTLY what’s going on with #YEGPride. This isn’t about the Alberta election, it’s about the politics and division WITHIN the community. #yeg #ableg #abvote #lgbtq https://t.co/jQf1zVf4yL
— Doug ?? (@DougYEG) April 11, 2019
Can’t believe @YEGPride would rather cancel the entire pride parade/festivities afterwards than actually face up to their racism and change their ways.
Do they not realize how important Pride is for some of us? Or do they just not care?#yegpride
— Kyle (@Kyle_Chronicles) April 11, 2019
Oh wow! #PrideFestival cancelled? I wonder if it’s also due to several incidents happening within the community that has impacted to this decision being made. #yegpride #yeg pic.twitter.com/tQbtjfFlCT
— Tisha Raj (@tish_A_tish) April 11, 2019
People of #yeg! If it is true that #YegPride has been cancelled this year, I think we should come together in support of our QTIBPOC kin and try to plan SOMETHING pride-related in June. I would love to be a part of a pride celebration lead by the brave QTIBPOC of Edmonton.
— Kaylee Biggart (@KayleeBiggart) April 11, 2019
If #yegpride can’t survive basic dialogue with the PoC members of the community, then it doesn’t deserve to live. As for me, I’m excited about what will take its place.
— Siobhan O’Leary (@SiobhanFTB) April 11, 2019
“Edmonton pride cancelled!! Apparently, the organizers weren’t as inclusive as they should be.”
The EPFS has yet to officially respond to any of the accusations from these groups or formally address the media with an official release.