For the first time in the Montreal’s history of well known gay pride parade, Divers/cité, the organization responsible for putting together the event and a symphony of other queer events during gay pride week, has decided to go in another direction this year.
The parade had gained much momentum and recognition in the beginning of the 21st century, even being broadcast live in 2002-03. The TV station TQS decided to drop the broadcast in 2004 saying that they where not getting the TV ratings to justify the cost of a live broadcast.
Unfortunately, when an event grows and starts to attract half a million people, businesses and the city start to haggle, the bars in the village weren’t happy they were being shut out, asked to fulfill obligations they where not interested in. This started when Divers/Cité decided to take control over liquor rights and the official parties (who could sell and not sell, what official parties where included in the program flyers).
Many merchants and club owners got frustrated and pulled their participation and funding in the parade. Divers/Cité, a non-profit community organization, were also condoned for “selling out” to advertisers like Coca-Cola and Molson, who had floats in the parade. These large corporations had splashy floats with models and huge sound systems, while most community groups were walking the route. The arrival of mayor Tremblay’s funding of diverse activities found Divers/Cité struggling for funding.
Back to the Village
The plan for this year’s 2005 parade is to simplify, bring the parade back to the Village, reduce the crowds, and make it a local-type festivity like Mardi Gras. As Divers/Cité puts it: “a Night Parade, kicking off the seven day Pride Celebrations”.
There are two clear side forming on this idea of changing one of Canadia’s most recognized and world-renowned events by holding it on a different day and at night.
Some people find this a great idea saying it will bring back the intimacy and party-like atmosphere that the original smaller parades had at the beginning of the 90’s. The parade was to show our pride within the community, a way to reassemble and bring in all queers from near and far, to celebrate once a year our accomplishments and our place in society in a huge party atmosphere.
By holding the party at night there will be fewer people, a more local queer presence, and a chance to celebrate and to walk through the village. At the same time a smaller parade helps Divers/Cité, who can no longer afford all the private security from the past years. The City of Montréal is happy as well that they no longer have to close a major artery, Rene-Lévesque, from west to east, during most of the Sunday before the first Monday in August.
Let’s not mention the logistical nightmare that also exists in coordinating all the trucks and people, the participants, and the public. This evening parade will kick start a great week of special events and parties taking place in the clubs, public parks, and the community centre.
Some people disagree with Divers/Cité’s decision, and many community groups are saying that they were not consulted concerning something that directly effects them.
People who disagree are saying the whole point of the parade is to normalize ourselves in society, that the parade was designed to show we exist. This side’s opinions have developed over the year into a soft form of protest. The original parade was a protest, it was to force society to see that we existed, that we were numerous, and that we are proud.
The recent parades were attracting both old and young, families, singles, homosexuals, heterosexuals from diverse backgrounds, and the curious; close to 500,000. Community groups are arguing that the afternoon parades were attracting families and large amounts of general public Montrealers, it was showing us in a favorable light, attracting press and fostering better relations within our society.
By holding the event at night you reduce community visibility and its importance of what many people in the queer community do as voluntary work.
When you hide the party it’s like you are not wanting to invite the general public to your event. Considering it’s a Monday evening, tourists have not even come in for the weekend parties yet. The notoriety of the parade was the fact that it was available to all, spanning west to east in the most central parts of Montreal, making it accessible even to those heterosexuals who would not feel comfortable putting a foot in the gay village.
The big question is will Divers/Cite’s plan work. We want to hear from you, what do you think of this plan, what does gay pride mean to you? Is gay pride still important? Write a comment in our “react now” window.
More info on Divers/Cité’s activities at http://www.diverscite.org/