Since the first Halifax Pride March in 1988, the organization has changed dramatically. Pride evolved from a small equal-rights protest to a large community celebration. But at last year’s AGM, Halifax Pride became embroiled in an acrimonious debate about who and what it represents.
It began when the Queer Arabs of Halifax put forward a resolution on “the removal of contents in Halifax Pride Society events that pinkwashes the human rights violations of foreign governments.” The target was promotional materials from Size Doesn’t Matter. According to the resolution, the group “directly engages in pinkwashing by aiming to highlight, amongst other things, the LGBT life in Israel, with a special focus on the city of Tel Aviv.”
Representatives of the Atlantic Jewish Council called the resolution censorship. The debate led to many Council supporters attending the AGM to vote down the resolution. The meeting grew rancorous, and many people walked out.
In the aftermath, Halifax Pride is trying to refocus and address issues around inclusion and safety, and provide more diverse representation. Recently, executive director Adam Reid talked with Halifax Magazine.
Halifax Magazine: How has Pride evolved over the last 30 years?
Adam Reid: We’ve come a very long way and Pride is a wonderful time to reflect on the achievements that our community has fought for. We see cases around the world of gains in our community being lost, so we need to keep reminding ourselves that we need to keep working for more, keep doing better. There are still those who haven’t had the gains or haven’t been able to enjoy the benefits of Pride that others have, so there’s still lots to be done.
Acceptance has grown in the community, so we’re now able to have a larger festival that includes more individuals and serves the community in lots of great ways, like our celebratory dance parties and performances and entertainment. But we really need to ensure that Pride is just as much about reflection, knowledge sharing, and community gathering.
HM: You mention “there are still those who haven’t had the gains or haven’t been able to enjoy the benefits of Pride that others have.” What were some of the concerns that you heard after the AGM?
AR: We certainly heard that people were frustrated that Pride did not offer a safe space for that meeting to take place. People felt that they couldn’t express themselves or weren’t comfortable in that space.
I definitely agree that Pride has not done all it could to ensure that all of our communities felt included and welcomed and reflected in the festival. We’ve taken a number of steps that I hope people will recognize as being positive moves forward, but we also recognize that the kind of change people want is going to take time, so we’re going to have to build that understanding.
We realize that some people might not feel interested in engaging with Pride at this time, and we understand, but we’re going to do our best to ensure that everyone can find a way within Pride to celebrate and be proud and take part.
HM: What changes are you making?
AR: We have built a number of new policies, which I think were overdue. Those include a safer space, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment policy, and dispute-resolution policies, and we also have a safer spaces statement. Now, at the start of every one of our gatherings, we read a message about the need to be respectful of each other, to listen to each other, and not cast judgment.
We now also do a lot more outreach. We host monthly committee meetings to keep people engaged and give people more of a voice. We had two vacancies open up on the board, so we were able to put two new individuals on the board from trans and QBIPOC communities.
Now, we also have a community-event funding program, so not-for-profit LGBT organizations who wanted to host events during the festival were able to submit an application to Pride seeking financial assistance, so we’ve been able to support about a dozen community events that might otherwise not have happened.
HM: What’s on your to-do list that you haven’t started yet?
AR: There’s still room for growth. Pride is an ever-evolving thing, so we need to get over the idea of creating something like a dispute resolution policy, putting it on a shelf, and letting it sit there. We recognize the need to constantly re-examine our policies and our actions.
HM: What do you hope people take away from this year’s Pride festival?
AR: I certainly want people to celebrate, and to acknowledge the work that still needs to happen in the community, but because we’re coming off a difficult AGM and a first executive director, my hope is that those who are most engaged with Pride will start to notice that there’s a renewed awareness, a renewed commitment to community support and outreach, and a goal of building a festival that is reflective of the desires of the community.
This interview has been edited and condensed.