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The Chaotic Missteps Behind the Montreal Pride Parade Cancellation

Byline: The Inside Scoop on the Unfortunate Twist of Events At 8:43 a.m. on August 7, anticipation and excitement filled the air as Simon Gamache hurried through the Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. He eagerly made...

Byline: The Inside Scoop on the Unfortunate Twist of Events

At 8:43 a.m. on August 7, anticipation and excitement filled the air as Simon Gamache hurried through the Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. He eagerly made his way to the room where Pride parade personnel were supposed to be gearing up for the grand event, only to find it empty. Little did he know, disorganization and a grave misunderstanding were about to unfold.

The executive director of Montreal Pride, the esteemed organization entrusted with the city's Pride parade and festival, was left in the dark. Despite requesting staff to remain on standby as they attempted to salvage the parade slated for 1 p.m., vital information failed to reach him. With cars zipping by on René-Levesque Boulevard, a sense of urgency prevailed as the street, where 12,000 parade participants and a crowd of up to 100,000 were expected, had already been reopened to traffic.

In a report investigating the unfortunate sequence of events, Philippe Schnobb, the former chair of Montreal's transit agency, uncovered a series of disconcerting mistakes and impulsive reactions that ultimately led to the parade's cancellation. "The cancellation of the parade was the result of a series of chaotic exchanges on the phone or by text messages in a climate of emergency," Schnobb wrote.

While the cancellation was not intentional or malicious, Schnobb highlighted a lack of communication among the overloaded staff, exacerbated by the departure of two key members. This communication breakdown directly led to the failure in recruiting the necessary 96 security volunteers.

More Transparency and Rebuilding Trust

Schnobb's report includes 13 recommendations to prevent such mishaps in the future. He emphasizes the need for a complete overhaul of Montreal Pride's governance structure, urging the organization to professionalize its board of directors and enhance transparency by publishing financial reports on its website.

Understanding the gravity of the situation, Schnobb states, "I believe the crisis... is an excellent opportunity for Montreal Pride to take steps to regain the confidence of its partners and the general public." He dedicated countless hours, engaging in 60 meetings ranging from 15 minutes to two hours each, to understand the intricacies and facilitate the road to recovery.

The cancellation of the parade sparked various rumors, from claims that Montreal police forced its closure due to the exclusion of LGBTQ+ officers to suspicions of threats targeting the event. As public demand for answers grew, the city witnessed an impromptu Pride march through the streets of downtown Montreal in lieu of the canceled parade.

Lessons Learned and a Path Forward

Montreal Pride manages an annual budget of $6 million, with 85 percent funded by government agencies and private entities. While the festival holds significant economic value, attracting millions of dollars in spinoffs, the parade itself is recognized as one of Montreal's top 10 most important events of the year.

Schnobb's report reveals that although Montreal Pride had an emergency plan in place, it was poorly disseminated among staff, and there was no specific plan for parade-related emergencies. Critical information regarding the absence of 96 security volunteers was only communicated during an 8:03 a.m. phone call. This triggered the "demobilization" of other security personnel and even Montreal police officers assigned to the parade.

By the time Gamache reached the hotel, it was already too late. The report does not clarify why this crucial information was not shared with him. Two minutes prior to his arrival, a radio program announced the parade's cancellation, leaving Gamache with no choice but to officially call off the event and issue a statement on Facebook at 9:13 a.m.

Reflecting on the events, Schnobb shares that the Montreal Pride staff responsible for dismissing the volunteers acted swiftly due to the staggering number of people involved in the parade. However, he emphasizes that with a crisis team mobilized to problem-solve, the decision-making process may have been different, or at the very least, more informed.

Miscommunication also played a significant role in the failure to recruit the 96 security volunteers. The lack of clarity regarding whether they were supposed to be paid staff or volunteers, coupled with the absence of a budget allocation for their inclusion, resulted in their exclusion. Compounding these issues, the person in charge of recruiting volunteers had been on medical leave for two weeks leading up to the parade, and another organizer had been fired in late June.

Schnobb's recommendations include paying all security personnel in the future to ensure their presence at the parade. In response, Simon Gamache, the executive director of Montreal Pride, expressed his commitment to rebuilding trust within the community and the general public. "My team and I will continue the work of consolidation in order to ensure the development and smooth running of all the activities of the Montreal Pride Festival, including, first and foremost, the flagship event that is the Pride parade," Gamache stated.

Mayor Valérie Plante applauded the report and praised Pride Montreal for their cooperation during the investigation and their proactive efforts to implement necessary changes for the future success of one of the city's most prominent events. Moe Hamandi, the president of Pride's board of directors, echoed these sentiments in a statement, expressing openness and humility in receiving the report.

Philippe Schnobb Philippe Schnobb, author of the report, recommends a reorganization of Montreal Pride's governance structure.

Montreal Pride Parade Members of Montreal Pride participating in the 2017 Parade.

Simon Gamache Simon Gamache, the executive director of Montreal Pride, speaking in a media interview after the parade was canceled on August 7, 2022.

The Montreal Pride parade cancellation incident serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of effective communication, crisis management, and transparent governance. It is an opportunity for Montreal Pride to rebuild trust and emerge stronger than ever, ensuring that the Pride parade remains a cherished and celebrated event for years to come.