The fallout continues after Montreal’s Pride parade was cancelled at the last minute on Sunday.
With tens of thousands preparing to march in the first full-scale edition of the annual event since 2019, organizers pulled the plug with just hours to spare, citing a staff shortage.
Furious with the cancellation, multiple groups rallied together to hold their own unsanctioned marches.
“Not being able to have the kind of security needed to make a parade like this happen is beyond believable,” said Matthew Veloza Quiterio, who marched down Ste. Catherine Street in full costume along with hundreds of others.
On Monday, Premier Francois Legault said Montreal Pride made a mistake not hiring everyone it needed.
“I’m told it was cancelled because the organization forgot to hire people for security along the parade route,” he told reporters in Sept-Iles, Quebec. “It’s sad, but everyone makes mistakes.”
He reiterated that the cancellation was not the fault of the City of Montreal, the Montreal Police or the province.
The Montreal Pride festival, which ran from Aug. 1-7 and included concerts and other events, received $600,000 from the City of Montreal.
This year’s festival also received more than $1.1 million from the Quebec government.
In a statement to Global News Monday, Montreal Pride said it has launched an investigation into what happened.
“The board of directors of Montreal pride has set up an internal post-mortem committee to shed light on the events that led to the cancellation of the parade,” said spokesperson Nathalie Roy, adding that a report will be published later this week.
PR expert and LGBTQ2 community member Patrice Lavoie wonders why organizers didn’t reach out for help instead of cancelling the parade.
“There could have been just a Facebook post or a call to one of their sponsors, a call to the city saying, ‘You know what, we are afraid that we might not have enough volunteers. Can you ask your people to jump in?'” Lavoie said. “People from the community would have raised their hands to make sure we had a parade.”
He felt the relatively new team behind Montreal Pride ran the bulk of the festival well, but will need to apologize more and provide clear explanations about what happened in order to get out of their public relations crisis.
“They’re going to have to do that just to make sure that their image is getting better again,” he said.
Lavoie added that he was thrilled to see members of the community show solidarity with each other by arranging their own celebration.
Organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade explained to Global News they usually meet with city officials weeks before their event to answer their questions about safety and logistics.
“You discuss with all the different department heads, everything from police, Urgences-Santé, city officials, all these type of things,” explained Kevin Tracey, president of the United Irish Societies of Montreal.
He said there needs to be a certain amount of personnel along the route to make sure people don’t interfere with the parade, or come too close to vehicles taking part.
“You know, everyone is connected with radios. The parade’s broken up into sections. Each section has a head and they communicate to their people on the ground,” Tracey said. “A section could be one city block or two city blocks. You need to have the right amount of volunteers in each area so you can do what you need to do.”
Corporate sponsors who spoke to Global News say they’re sticking with Montreal Pride, at least for now.
Global News saw delegations from companies including Wal-Mart, Air Canada and RW&CO downtown on Sunday wondering what to do after the cancellation.
“RW&CO. fully supports the LGBTQAI2+ community all year long. We were disappointed when the Montreal Pride Parade was cancelled. We will continue to support the Montreal Pride Parade and LGBTQAI2+ community and events going forward,” said company spokesperson Patricia Robichaud.
Loblaw, which had 80 employees set to march under its Provigo, Maxi and Pharmaprix banners, called the cancellation unfortunate.
“At this point, we do not intend to reconsider our involvement,” said Loblaw spokesperson Johanne Heroux.