Emily Wilson, News Reporter
This June’s Toronto’s Pride Festival weekend has been cancelled due to COVID-19, but organizers see it as an opportunity to make changes.
Aeryn Pfaff, artistic director of the Alternative Pride Festival Toronto, said in a telephone interview his events were created for inclusivity purposes and to fill in the gaps where Pride Toronto, which was scheduled for June 26 to 28, fell short.
He said alternative events were created to be free from politics, as a different form of political expression that had to worry less about respectability.
“Just imagine people wanting to talk about sex at a festival celebrating sexuality,” Pfaff said.
He said while Pride Toronto “does many great things for a lot of people,” they don’t quite reach the whole spectrum, especially when funding from the government and corporations comes with limitations.
Pride Toronto has a responsibility to keep things acceptable for stakeholders, which is something the pride movement never set out to do, Pfaff said
“Pride was born out of protest and continues as a political movement to this day,” Pride Toronto said in a press release.. But Pfaff believes more can be done for inclusivity.
“Alternative Pride wasn’t trying to be everything to everybody, it wanted to be everything to somebody,” Pfaff said.
He said Toronto’s festival is so large due to the funding, but lately the organization has been having some financial troubles judging by public records.
In 2019 donations have dropped more than $70,000 from 2018 with nearly $1 million in debt from overspending, the annual financial report stated. That number could be much greater if donations are reduced because the event is cancelled.
Numerous attempts by Et Cetera to reach Pride for comment were unsuccessful.
“Most funding comes from donations during the festival from the year before,” Pfaff said. “Money will be harder to raise over virtual events.”
John Tory announced last month of cancelling all events up to June 30, leaving Toronto’s LGBTQ+ members at a loss.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Toronto is cancelling all city-led major events, festivals, conferences, and cultural programs and is also cancelling all city permits for major events organized by external groups,” Tory said.
But Pride Toronto said the event will continue. “Our team is working hard to deliver Pride celebrations in new, creative, and unique ways that ensure safety and physical distancing.”
Tory said Pride Month will still proceed in June, but the format of the events will look different.
This may be a time for Pride Toronto to take a step back and reset the way they do things, Pfaff said.
“Pride is not necessarily an event,” he said. “It’s a movement and a feeling and you can’t put a price on that.”