A Message from Halifax Pride

The Halifax Pride Society Board of Directors wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologizes for the role we played in causing considerable pain to members of our community, specifically the Queer Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (QBIPOC) community.

Over the past year, as volunteers on this Board, we have worked hard to, above all else, create a Halifax Pride Society that is inclusive, welcoming and safe. Despite the best intentions and our best efforts, we have failed.

To the best of our abilities, we have attempted to represent the many views of our community. We recognize our positions of privilege and the vast responsibility placed upon us. Each of us takes seriously our duty to help produce a pride festival that is: Accessible to all; Fiscally responsible; Rewarding for all who participate, and Reflects and celebrates the best of the LGBT2Q+ community and culture in Halifax and throughout Nova Scotia.

Let us be clear, we are unwavering in our commitment to produce a pride festival that is accessible to all.

How the Halifax Pride Festival Works

As a starting point, it is important to understand that the Halifax Pride Festival is a platform for the LGBT2Q+ community to come together, to be seen, and to be heard. The Halifax Pride Festival is a community-based festival. It is a collection of events by, and for, the LGBT2Q+ community. The vast majority of events that take place during the festival are submitted and run by members of our community and not the Halifax Pride Society (i.e., the Board of Directors, team leads and volunteers). Prior to this year’s festival, we held two community meetings, including one centered on the event submission process. In 2016, the Halifax Pride Festival had 110 events listed in our guide. Of those events, the Society organized and ran 18.

How We Got Here

As we look towards the future of the Halifax Pride Festival, it is important to reflect on how we got here. It is important to remember those who have blazed the trail that has allowed us to enjoy the rights and liberties we have today.

2017 will mark the 30th Halifax Pride. In 1988, members of Halifax’s LGBT2Q+ community rallied to plan the city’s first Pride march in response to growing unrest concerning rampant prejudice and discrimination, particularly the censorship of a pro-gay ad. This act of community solidarity planted the seed for an event where the beauty and vibrancy of Halifax’s LGBT2Q+ community would blossom once a year. There have been challenges and triumphs, but the fundamental principle of inclusion has been enduring.

This summer, when the request was made to remove content from the Festival’s community fair, we recognized it was a contentious and divisive issue within our community. We knew some members of our community held deep and real wounds about how similar issues were previously addressed. We proceeded cautiously in an attempt to not reopen those wounds. A debate ensued on social media, in traditional media, in person, and via email. We heard passionate opinions on both sides of the debate. Rather than taking unilateral action as an 11-member Board, we decided this question properly rested with the members of our community.

Our vision was to collaborate with community members and community partners to find common ground and craft solutions where everyone felt they had a place. For this reason, we met with the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, Queer Arabs of Halifax and the Atlantic Jewish Council. We encouraged those parties to work together. At the end of August, we also hosted a community meeting to hear from community members and continue the dialogue.

In addition to these meetings, we also tried reaching out to many prominent members of our community, including the QBIPOC community, to involve them in the festival planning process. We found creating dialogue was challenging. We did not properly take into account why the QBIPOC community felt a division with Pride, given a historical context of their exclusion. We also recognize this division does not rest solely on the discourse of the past few months, but more so on a deeper, and problematic fissure within our community in regards to silencing of marginalized voices.

Our Annual General Meeting

Our annual general meeting is intended to, among other things, provide an opportunity for Society members to have honest and forthright discussions about the direction of the Society. Our bylaws – our governing document – permit Society members to submit resolutions to be debated and voted on by Society members, at the annual general meeting. Once resolutions were submitted in accordance with our by-laws we were bound to allow them to proceed to a debate and vote, as no mechanism in our by-laws allows us to do otherwise. We, the Board of Directors, did not want these issues to proceed in this manner and that is why we worked to facilitate alternative methods of resolving these issues.

We were disheartened at times by the discourse during our 2016 annual general meeting. The conversation veered from considerate, constructive and respectful, into dangerous territory, often involving personal attacks based upon assumptions and immutable characteristics. We believe, regardless of one’s sincerely held beliefs, we must be respectful towards those we may not agree with and understand their feelings are equally valid. We believe the LGBT2Q+ movement has been successful, in part, due to a openness to embrace differences – different sexual orientations, different gender identities, different gender expressions, different ethnicities, different religions, and different political views. We believe continued progress will not be achieved through judging, and attempts to delegitimize and invalidate one another based on our differences. Although we may not completely understand one another’s differences, we must try to be understanding.

Moving Forward

We apologize for the role we played in the pain and divisions of our community during this time. We recognize you feel silenced, alienated, and oppressed by the process. We recognize we must do more to improve the systemic conditions that have led to the under-representation of the QBIPOC community in the Halifax Pride Society. As a starting point, we are committed to the following:

      1. Continuing the conversation: We are committed to continuing the conversation and to hear everyone’s voice. To facilitate these conversations, we will commit to have a Director come to anyone who wants to share their story or solution. We will come to your house, workplace, or another place you feel comfortable. Of course, you can also share your views via email: conversation@halifaxpride.com. We will report the findings of our discussions by March 1, 2017.
      2. Creating safe spaces: We are committed to creating spaces where everyone can feel safe and express their Pride. We will aid in the creation of spaces specifically catering to the QBIPOC communities. The form of these spaces will be self-determined so long as they adhere to the mission and values of the Society.
      3. Earmarking funds: We will allocate funds specifically for the creation of the spaces articulated in paragraph two.
      4. Reviewing processes: We will undertake a review of our processes and procedures with the objective of identifying barriers that exist that prevent the full participation of members of traditionally underrepresented groups. We will report the findings of this review by May 1, 2017.
      5. Collaboration: We are committed to continuing to collaborate with our community members, community partners, government partners, and sponsors, to achieve the Society’s mission.

We understand these goals will not be achieved overnight and we cannot achieve them alone. Therefore, we ask for your help. Please participate in this process as we work to rebuild your trust.

Better Together

We believe inclusion cannot be achieved through exclusion. Inclusion cannot mean stifling the voices of opposing views. Instead we must listen to one another and find commonalities. We resist the temptation to focus on what divides us, on what tears us apart. Rather, we are focused on continuing to work together to create a space for everyone. We are focused on our common cause: to have a community, province, country, and world that is more equal, fair and just.

We believe that despite our differences, we are Better Together.