MONTREAL — Communication problems and a misunderstanding were at the heart of the decision to cancel this year's Montreal's Pride parade hours before it was scheduled to begin, according to a newly released report.
Report author Philippe Schnobb, the former head of Montreal's public transit agency, found that the cancellation of the Aug. 7 event was announced hastily without the approval of the organization's executive director or board of directors.
"I conclude that the parade was cancelled because of a misunderstanding, after a series of chaotic exchanges, caused by communication problems accentuated by a reaction that was too fast by certain key people … and a reaction that was too slow on the part of certain others," he wrote.
Schnobb is a board member of Fondation Émergence, a non-profit that advocates for the LGBTQ community and that runs the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. He was tasked by Montreal Pride to investigate after the parade was cancelled and to write a report and make recommendations.
A timeline of events in his report shows that unnamed staff members realized at around 7:45 a.m. on Aug. 7 that someone had forgotten to hire some 96 security staff needed for the parade later that day. A "misunderstanding," he said, led to some people being told just after 8 a.m. that the event was cancelled — before the executive director of Pride Montreal could arrive on-site to make an official decision.
"I conclude that certain misunderstood and invalid information transmitted externally led to the cancellation of the parade without anyone in authority having formally made the decision," the report read.
By the time the executive director arrived, the volunteers had already been dismissed, police had reopened the streets and news of the cancellation had been announced in the media, giving him no choice but to announce what was already a "fait accompli," the report noted.
Organizers announced the cancellation at around 9 a.m. on Aug. 7, citing security concerns stemming from a lack of volunteers for the event.
The annual celebration of LGBTQ culture had been expected to draw tens of thousands of spectators and 12,000 participants. The abrupt cancellation shocked the public and Montreal's mayor, who told reporters at the time that the city would have stepped in to help carry out the event that morning had officials been made aware of the staffing problems.
Montreal Pride initially stated that the decision to cancel the parade was made with the support of city police, but organizers were forced to correct themselves after police stated that they had only been informed after the fact.
Schnobb noted that Montreal Pride was understaffed and that key people were overworked leading up to the event, which he said may have contributed to the errors and the failure to hire security. While the event was slightly short of volunteers, he said the parade could have taken place had the staff been hired.
He also noted that the security positions were supposed to be filled by a mix of paid workers and volunteers who hold the same title, which led to confusion surrounding their recruitment. Schnobb also expressed concern with the structure of Pride Montreal, and he questioned whether the group — in its current form — can properly execute a major event.
He noted that from 2007 to 2022, the organization's budget has grown from $140,000 to more than $5 million, without any significant changes in governance. Schnobb recommended that Montreal Pride create an emergency plan with clear steps to follow when problems arise; clarify the roles and responsibilities within the organization; and work with a governance expert to overhaul its structure.
Pride Montreal's executive director said in a statement that the organization was committed to regaining the trust of the public and the community it serves. "My team and I will continue the work of consolidation in order to ensure the development and smooth running of all the activities of the Montreal Pride Festival — including, first and foremost, the flagship event that is the Pride parade," Simon Gamache said.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante welcomed the report and praised Pride Montreal for collaborating in the investigation and for proactively making changes to ensure the future success of one of the city's biggest events.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2022.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press