Organizer says municipality trying to cancel gay pride festival in Port Stanley
Published Thursday, August 2, 2012 9:57PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 2, 2012 9:58PM EDT
PORT STANLEY, Ont. -- The organizer of the inaugural Port Stanley gay pride festival says municipal officials are "uncomfortable" with the event and accuses them of trying to use red tape to derail it two weeks before its scheduled start.
Organizer Michelle Boyce said the Municipality of Central Elgin has imposed expensive "last minute" permit conditions, including perimeter fences, additional security guards and re-arranging the layout of the grounds.
She said the changes would cost the festival $12,000 -- almost one-third of its budget -- which the event can't afford.
"I believe that it's a total try to bury the festival under bureaucratic burden and financial hardship so the festival cancels," she said, alleging the municipality is "uncomfortable" with the gay-pride festival.
"Two weeks is not enough time to come up with that kind of money for a first-time festival" with no large sponsors, she said.
Boyce said Central Elgin imposed the requirements last Friday, despite first receiving the festival's application back in April, with only one change -- removing a midway -- made to plans since then.
However, municipality solicitor Stephen Gibson said event organizers did not submit a complete request for the festival until the end of June.
He said the original application lacked key details on the use of public facilities, adding that the municipality has acted in "good faith" and worked to process the permit request as quickly as possible.
"The fact is that the municipality is establishing conditions which are conditions that would be applied to anyone that is seeking to hold a festival on an open area. They're reasonable," Gibson said, noting a harbour adjacent to the event area is a safety risk that would need fencing off.
Boyce said the event in the community, which sits on Lake Erie south of London, would bring in thousands of tourists.
She said she intends to see the festival parade go ahead even without a permit.
"We're still running the parade but it will be more a protest route than parade," she said.