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!”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
“He has created an environment that is manipulative, divisive, and ultimately – toxic.”
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.”
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.
With files from Peter Kim
Read the full email allegedly sent from Pride Toronto Staff below: