'Chaotic' communication, misunderstandings: report reveals why Montreal Pride parade was cancelled
Organizers of the Montreal Pride need to pay for security, communicate better, and hire more experienced staff to avoid another repeat of the devastating cancellation of the parade next year, according to a post-mortem report into the August 2022 fiasco.
The city appointed former STM head Philippe Schnobb to investigate what led to Pride organizers cancelling the parade five hours before it was set to start, in addition to looking into Pride Montreal's governance and decision-making processes and the financial and reputational impacts of the decision.
"I conclude that the parade was cancelled because of a misunderstanding, after a series of chaotic exchanges, caused by communication problems accentuated by too rapid a reaction from certain key people in the operational chain, and too slow a reaction from the from others," Schnobb concluded in his 25-page report released on Wednesday.
The report found that though Pride's budget has increased from around $140,000 in 2007 to more than $5 million in 2022, its governance has remained the same size.
Significant changes to the executive management in 2020 caused uncertainty, the report stated, and the board is in the midst of a governance restructuring.
Pride Montreal is a major attraction in the city that brings significant revenue. The report shows that the last pre-pandemic edition brought in $6.4 million.
To run the parade, the report says 317 volunteers are needed; 200 for security and 117 for other tasks.
On Aug. 7, the day of the doomed parade, Pride executive director Simon Gamache said 96 security volunteers were missing, and they needed to pull the plug.
Schnobb's report said organizers need to pay these people.
"The role of the greeters and volunteers seems crucial to ensure the smooth running of the parade," the report reads. "It would be prudent to plan to hire staff rather than rely on the presence of volunteers. Paid attendance is higher."
The report says there were several internal communication issues that led to the parade being cancelled "in a matter of minutes."
"Leaders were presented with a fait accompli: the parade was cancelled without their authorization," the release says. "The sense of urgency also contributed to rushing the operational chain on the morning of the event."
Pop-up parades, parties and other events happened in the wake of the cancellation, but many, including Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, questioned why organizers didn't reach out when the staff shortage was noticed.
The report recommends that Pride analyze its emergency measures plan and update it.
"With the help of external resources, we have already initiated several projects within the organization. These recommendations will enhance and clarify our future actions," said Pride board of directors chair Moe Hamandi.
In addition, the report found that there was a lack of resources weeks before the parade and, as such, employees were overworked leading up to the parade day, which falls at the end of Pride week.
The report says Pride needs to share information better and improve logistics.
The Pride organization needs to improve its relationship with partners such as the City of Montreal and the general public, according to the report. In addition, Pride Montreal needs to "take advantage of the support of a governance specialist to strengthen its governing bodies while continuing its efforts to develop a strategic plan, which is already underway within the organization," the release says.
Pride Montreal executive director Simon Gamache said the organization is working to rebuild trust with the community and partners.
"My team and I will continue to consolidate our efforts to ensure the development and smooth running of all activities of the Montreal Pride Festival - including, first and foremost, the flagship event, the Pride Parade," said Gamache.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante was visibly upset the day the parade was cancelled, saying that the city had no idea it would be cancelled until the morning of the event.
"It was essential for our administration to ensure that Pride Montreal has all the necessary tools to ensure the success of the upcoming Pride Parade," said Plante on Wednesday. "Fierté [Pride] Montréal and its parade play an essential role in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and we are all mobilized to ensure the quality of this flagship event."
The following are the report's 13 recommendations:
- Request an external review of the emergency response plan and update it by incorporating the chair of the board of directors into the chain of decisions. Organize a training event to ensure understanding of the plan.
- Provide the organization with a contingency plan for all parade-related activities. Conduct a training event to ensure understanding of the plan.
- Frame parade activities with a clear list of requirements that will be reviewed regularly by the branch to ensure that all needs have been met.
- Clarify needs and share indicators with the executive team to ensure that nothing is overlooked.
- Include a requirement that the parade staff be paid.
- The budget be set up with categories of expenses and revenues by project and make it transparent in the financial statements.
- The Ethics and Governance Committee establish a plan for proactive dissemination of information.
- It is essential that crisis management training be included in the training program into the governance improvement process program.
- The above training should also include a component on the roles and responsibilities of directors, officers and senior management.
- Proceed with a reorganization of the organization by taking advantage of the revision of the statutes and regulations of Fierté/Pride Montréal to broaden the membership to stakeholders.
- Take advantage of the current support of a specialist in governance specialist to clearly define the skills required to ensure the quality of the Board of Directors.
- Continue the strategic plan development process, taking into account the impact of the cancellation of the parade on the relations with the stakeholders. This process should include a reflection to create a risk register.
- The Ethics and Governance Committee should evaluate the distribution of VIQ (Very Important Queer) passes. The purpose of this space should be clearly defined and the requirements for the annual report should include a description of the purpose of this space and the requirements for obtaining a VIQ pass. The annual report should contain relevant information on the costs associated with this space, as well as the value of the freebies.
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