Pride events in Canada facing higher security costs, feds offer $1.5M
The federal government will be providing up to $1.5 million to Pride organizations across the country for increased security measures at parades and other events this year, as advocates call for all political parties to take part.
As first reported by CTV News, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien confirmed the funding plan during an event across the street from Parliament Hill on Monday.
The money is being provided to Fierté Canada Pride to distribute to local event organizers who apply for assistance.
In mid-May, the national association of Canadian Pride organizations sent the federal government an "emergency funding proposal" asking for $1.5 million to help cover increased safety and security costs, stemming from concerns over a rise in anti-LGBTQ2S+ hate, violence, and threats.
"Every day, we witness attacks in person at events and online targeting community leaders, event organizers, elected representatives, venues, artists and performers, families and young people," reads Fierté Canada Pride's proposal.
Among the measures the organization said are costing more for the 2023 Pride season: security and police services, volunteer training, insurance premiums, and emergency planning materials.
This funding will go towards expenses related to:
- Vehicle and crowd control;
- Barricades and fencing;
- Municipal emergency service costs;
- Paid-duty police or private security;
- Training for staff and volunteers; and
- Safety gear such as high-visibility vests and radios.
"We need to wake up to the reality that 2SLGBTQI+ people are facing today… Now's not the time for any sort of performative allyship, now's the time for action," Ien said during the announcement, noting that as the Toronto MP whose riding includes the Church and Wellesley Village, safety concerns have been the predominant concern raised by groups planning Pride events this summer.
"A constituent said to me just the other day: 'Marci, this Pride is different. We've never seen this amount of rage, we've never seen this amount of hate directed towards us,'" the minister said. "Our government will not stand by while hate and violence seek to reverse decades of progress."
At the announcement, Ien was joined by Pride organizers and community advocates, as well as Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault. He said that 10 per cent of the Pride events that take place worldwide, happen in Canada and the federal Liberals think it's integral that all who attend, are kept safe.
"We cannot lose any more lives, and we will not cower in fear," said Boissonnault.
With planning well underway for the 2023 Pride season, Ien said the money will be able to move out the door quickly.
WHAT PRIDE ORGANIZERS ARE FACING
Funding will be allocated to festivals that seek it, based on their size.
For example, large Pride events such as those in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver will be pitching for their share of a $750,000 budget, while another $600,000 would be divided up between medium-sized festivals in cities such as Calgary, Ottawa, and Halifax, as well as Pride events in smaller locations.
While some larger Pride festivals have been used to accounting for security costs associated with organizing their events, they are seeing sizeable price increases.
Sherwin Modeste, the executive director of Pride Toronto said Monday that insurance for Toronto Pride in 2022 went from $67,000 to more than $300,000, private security went up by more than 25 per cent, and paid duty police offer costs rose more than 150 per cent.
"We are going to be seeing over two million people from across Canada and across the world descending on Toronto to celebrate. For some of them, this will be the only time they will get to be their true authentic self. Because once they return home, they're going back to the closet," Modeste said.
Meanwhile, some smaller towns and communities are facing having to hire security for the first time.
One such example is Timmins, Ont. According to Julie Nobert-DeMarchi, who is both the president of Fierté Canada Pride and the founder of Fierté Timmins Pride, the northeastern Ontario city had to develop a safety plan and allocate a portion of its limited budget for safety measures before kicking off Pride month events last week in the wake of "escalating hate… including targeted incidents.”
"And sadly, our story is not unique," Nobert-DeMarchi said. "The increasing levels of animosity mean that many of our organizers, who are often volunteers, lack the resources and training required to tackle this issue... With these tools at our disposal, we can collectively respond to the rising tide of hate."
Fierté Canada Pride is also being granted $150,000 for training, support, and program administration, which is expected to include developing emergency planning and safety-related guidance that can be used across the country.
"People deserve to be safe when they celebrate Pride loudly and proudly. But, this will require increased community resources… and infrastructure expenses. And these increased costs, and the work associated… is not something that Pride festivals can handle on their own," said Toby Whitfield, executive director of Capital Pride in Ottawa.
'WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO BE HERE'
In just the last few months, protests at drag brunches and drag story-time events across Canada have resulted in clashes between participants and protesters, some requiring police intervention, while other events have had to be cancelled or postponed due to security concerns sparked by violent threats.
In making this request to the federal government, Fierté Canada Pride cited several recent incidents, as well as the latest hate crimes report from Statistics Canada noting a 64 per cent increase in hate crimes targeting individuals over their sexual orientation between 2019 and 2021.
"Hate is on the rise and our communities are scared. It speaks volumes that we're at a point where we have to come here and announce unprecedented safety precautions… But we shouldn't have to be here at all," said LGBTQ2S+ advocacy group Momentum president Fae Johnstone during Monday's announcement, calling for all levels of government to take note and respond accordingly.
Asked what the federal government attributes this rise to, Boissonnault pointed directly to ideologically- motivated violent extremism taking root in Canada.
"Something has taken hold post-pandemic. There is an anchor, there's a rancor, there's a rage, there's an anger that we have to step up against, and defend against," he said.
During Monday's event, Ien challenged Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre—who has yet to say whether he plans to join other federal party leaders in marching in Pride parades this year— to attend a scheduled Pride flag raising and drag brunch on Parliament Hill, later this week.
While Poilievre has joined other federal parties in wishing Canadians a happy Pride month and condemning Uganda's recently-passed anti-homosexuality law, when asked if he'd partake in Pride events, he spoke generally about "freedom."
"The time for allies is long past, we need champions. And so empty words and slogans and buzzwords that kind of get around the issue… Are you coming to Pride or not?" asked Boissonnault. "And are you going to hide behind members of your caucus, or are you going to show up and represent?"
Building on this, Pride organizers said their message to all political parties this Pride season, given what's going on, is to "show up and meaningfully engage," as Whitfield said.
While advocates have welcomed this emergency funding, LGBTQ2S+ groups continue to say more needs to be done, vowing to continue pressing all levels of government for more fulsome anti-hate and LGBTQ2S+ inclusion initiatives.
When asked by CTV News if the federal government was prepared to commit to providing security-focused funding for Pride in years to come, minister Ien said she'll continue to listen to what the community is asking for.
"As community speaks, we will listen, and we will act," Ien said.