Pride Toronto executive director resigns after allegations of racism, sexual harassment

Click to play video 'Executive director of Pride Toronto resigns amid controversy, serious allegations' Executive director of Pride Toronto resigns amid controversy, serious allegations
WATCH ABOVE: Executive Director of Pride Toronto resigns amid controversy and serious allegations – Aug 10, 2016

The executive director of Pride Toronto has resigned amid allegations he sexually harassed staff members, left “controlled substances” in the organization’s headquarters and was abusive, manipulative, racist, sexist and transphobic, according to an internal email allegedly written by staff members obtained by Global News.

Mathieu Chantelois took to Twitter Wednesday to announce he had resigned from the Pride Toronto Board of Directors, adding he now works at Cineplex Media.

“It was time for me to move,” he said. “I wish Pride the best!”

READ MORE: Toronto Pride Parade dedicated to victims of Orlando shooting

But Chantelois’ resignation announcement is in stark contrast to allegations that surfaced in an internal email allegedly sent from Pride Toronto staff to the organization’s board of directors on July 7, which detailed serious accusations about his conduct.

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“Over the last eighteen months, the staff of Pride Toronto have regularly experienced intimidation, verbal abuse, manipulation, and deceit, which we have come to accept as core elements of Mathieu’s personality and character,” the email stated.

“We have been subject to racist, sexist and transphobic comments, sexual harassment, and personal attacks.”

READ MORE: Black Lives Matter gets police kicked out of future Pride parades say co-founders

Chantelois told Global News Wednesday he had not seen the letter and was not aware of its existence prior to being contacted, but denied all allegations purportedly made by Pride Toronto staff.

Pride Toronto spokeswoman Victoria Schwarzl declined to confirm or deny the validity of the email, or the allegations made therein. Global News has not been able to independently verify any of the allegations made in the email.

WATCH: Francisco Alvarez was on the board of Pride Toronto from 2009 to 2013. He was surprised by the resignation of Mathieu Chantelois and sheds light on some of the struggles of the organization. Peter Kim reports. 
Click to play video 'Former co-chair of Pride Toronto speaks out about Mathieu Chantelois’ resignation' Former co-chair of Pride Toronto speaks out about Mathieu Chantelois’ resignation
Former co-chair of Pride Toronto speaks out about Mathieu Chantelois’ resignation – Aug 11, 2016
The email stated staff members’ “solidarity has only now given us the courage to raise serious issues related to the [executive director’s] performance over the last 18 months.”
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“He has hired friends without conducting interviews, lied to the media, the community, volunteers and the staff, and made us feel unsafe about disagreeing with him on anything,” the email stated.

“He has made derogatory comments about staff to other staff members, including comments about firing staff once the festival was over, and used Staff [sic] against each other to protect himself.”

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The email also raised questions about Chantelois’ character in regard to claims he may have kept unspecified illicit substances in the organization’s downtown Toronto headquarters.

“In multiple situations, staff have been concerned with substance issues and been exposed to controlled substances that he physically left in the office,” the email stated.

“He has tokenized staff members, volunteers, and members of the community, he has been afraid to have difficult conversations about community politics or with community, and he has crafted the festival in his own image rather than in the best interests of the community.”

The email stated staff felt ostracized from the Pride Toronto Board of Directors, alleging Chantelois “intentionally kept us at arms’ length from you as the board, leaving us to feel unsupported, vulnerable and unprotected.”

“For many months, we didn’t feel safe even to talk to each other,” the email stated.

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“He has created an environment that is manipulative, divisive, and ultimately – toxic.”

Mathieu Chantelois signs a list of demands from the Black Lives Matters movement as they stage a sit-in at the annual Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday, July 3, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Chantelois’ departure comes after Black Lives Matter Toronto staged a sit-in during the Pride Parade on July 3, halting the procession for 30 minutes before a list of demands were signed by the former executive director.

The email said staff managed to “put together a successful 2016 festival” last month, despite the “lack of support and trust from the leader of the organization.”

“The situation has been ongoing from the moment he began working here, but it has grown steadily more difficult to bear, especially in the last 72 hours,” it stated, which coincided with the timing of Black Lives Matter Toronto sit-in at the parade.

“The lies and manipulation around Black Lives Matter, the failure to adhere to an agreed upon emergency plan, and the lack of support that BLM experience from the organization comes from the same place as his ongoing treatment of the staff.”

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READ MORE: Toronto Pride celebrations will go ahead amid tighter security: organizers

Staff allegedly requested a meeting with the board, aside from its co-chairs, to share individual experiences of working with Chantelois to support the allegations made in the email.

“We have given serious thought to what we are stating and we are prepared to speak to our allegations as a group,” the email stated, adding that it should formally be considered as part of Chantelois’ annual performance review.

“We are dedicated to the mission and vision of Pride Toronto and signed-up [sic] to be part of an organization that promotes inclusion, respect and collaboration. The current leader of our organization embodies none of these traits and we find the situation to be unacceptable.”

With files from Peter Kim

Read the full email allegedly sent from Pride Toronto Staff below:

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