Montreal mayor requests independent investigation into cancellation of Pride parade
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante has requested an independent investigation into the abrupt cancellation of the Montreal Pride parade Sunday after meeting with festival organizers on Monday.
The mayor's office told CTV News Monday evening the mayor asked for the probe in order to rebuild trust with Montrealers and to shed more light on the circumstances that led to the last-minute decision.
More details about the process are expected to be released in the coming days.
One day after Montreal Pride abruptly cancelled the parade just hours before it was set to begin, organizers didn't have much to say about how poorly they managed the festival's marquee event.
And now, there are concerns about how the embarrassing mistake could hurt the city's reputation.
The head of the organization that runs the week-long festival, Simon Gamache, said on Sunday the parade had to be called off because there weren't enough volunteers to ensure it could go ahead safely.
The board of directors said Monday it has set up an internal "post-mortem committee" to investigate why the parade had to be cancelled but declined requests for media interviews.
"Montréal Pride will issue a news release on the results of its 2022 Festival later this week," wrote Nathalie Roy, a festival spokesperson, in an email to CTV News.
PARADE CANCELLATION COULD HAVE LASTING EFFECTS: PROFESSOR
Such a sad ending to the festival could have lasting impacts on the city's marketability to host large events, according to Robert Soroka, a professor at the John Molson School of Business.
"Clearly, the City of Montreal is going to be compromised. One would anticipate that there's a lot of discussion in the mayor's office right now about what they could have done or what they should have done to avoid this from happening," he said.
"The reputation of Montreal as an event or host city is also compromised. It's not just the Pride parade … that's compromised, it could be other events where sponsors will question whether Montreal can support it. This has further reaching impact than just this particular week-long event."
He said sponsors of the parade were equally hurt since they didn't "get the benefit of the bargain" by partnering supporting the cause of the parade and promoting their brand.
One of the festival's major sponsors, Loto-Quebec, said it still planned to support the Montreal Pride Festival next year.
ORGANIZERS 'FORGOT' TO HIRE SECURITY: REPORTS
In the last 24 hours, Gamache, who is less than a year into his new role, told other news outlets that the organization "forgot" to hire the required paid volunteers to provide security along the parade route.
The festival received $600,000 from the City of Montreal and more than $1.1 million from the Quebec government for this year's event, which also included concerts and other events. After the parade was cancelled, thousands of fans were still able to watch the closing performances, including Brazilian headliner Pabllo Vittar's show at the Olympic Stadium.
Still, losing out on the first pride parade in two years because of the pandemic was a huge blow not just for the tourists but to merchants in Montreal's Gay Village, too.
"My team was there all day yesterday and some of them were crying because they were expecting this big huge fabulous day," said Gabrielle Rondy, executive director of Société de développement commercial (SDC) du Village, an organization that supports businesses in the Village.
Jonathan Savage, one of the thousands of tourists who came to Montreal to see the parade, was also upset.
"I've never seen anything like it. I just feel sorry for the people who spent all this money preparing," he said.
Festival organizers were scheduled to meet with city officials Monday to explain what went wrong. With the city being a major source of funding for the festival, officials will want to know how a major event could be cancelled on such short notice without even a phone call to the mayor's office ahead of time.
Mayor Valerie Plante said she was just as stunned as everyone else Sunday after reading about the cancellation in the news.
One person who has experience organizing annual parades in Montreal is Kevin Tracey of the United Irish Societies of Montreal, which is responsible for the St. Patrick's Day parade. He said he pays for private security for the parade route and has had to beef up security personnel over the years to make sure it goes smoothly.
"And that's part of our budget. We also have the cadets from John Abbott College Police tech and we also have a great turnout of marshals. We have, easily, 60-plus marshals to handle the parade route," he said.
FESTIVALGOERS PARTIED ANYWAY
Tracey said he wondered why the Pride parade was cancelled so abruptly since planning such an event takes about a dozen groups working together, including paramedics and police, as well as parking and sanitation considerations.
"And, you know, if we needed help, I think it's probably a phone call or two away," he said.
"So I would not knock the police or anything with the City of Montreal in terms of our planning, they've always been extremely helpful to us."
The head of the Village merchants' association also wondered what the impact would be on the community, which has struggled with closures and less foot traffic in the last two years.
"The Sunday of Pride is always a very busy day for our merchants so, of course, at first, everybody was super sad," said Rondy.
Rondy said the true colours of the Village were shown Sunday as hundreds of people flocked to Saint-Catherine Street and held pop-up parties to the sound of upbeat music.
"It was quite beautiful to see it."
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Montreal's Daniel J. Rowe and Vanessa Lee
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