Open Letter: Black Lives Matter and Our Commitment to Giving Ethno-cultural Communities More Space

Open Letter: Black Lives Matter and Our Commitment to Giving Ethno-cultural Communities More Space

OPENING OUR HEARTS AND SPACES TO MULTICULTURAL EXPRESSION

An open letter from the Montréal Pride board of directors and team with regard to the events related to the “Black Lives Matter” movement in Toronto and spaces reserved for people from ethno-cultural communities at Pride events.

This open letter has been drafted in response to the events surrounding the Black Lives Matter demonstration which took place during Pride Toronto. The activists’ peaceful protest raised many questions about the place of people of colour and, by extension, of all people from ethno-cultural communities, within the program of events and the role of Prides in the fight against racism, transphobia and discrimination.

We, the board of directors and team of Montréal Pride, have given the issue much thought before publishing this open letter and taking a public position. We felt it was important to understand the situation here in Montréal and address the concerns of local communities. We therefore met with people directly affected by these issues and challenges. We also examined the feasibility of their demands. Our conclusion is that, here too, there are matters to be addressed and we must take action.

Understanding, accepting, taking action

Pride is certainly a celebration but, above all, it must be a clear expression of political purpose in the interest of LGBTTIQ2S people. The Pride movement has evolved not only from the many marches and demonstrations held to defend the rights of LGBTTIQ2S people, with the ultimate goal of achieving legal equality and social acceptance by and for everyone, but also from publicly denouncing homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, lesbophobic, xenophobic, sexist and racist events.

These same proud, true and transformative words were used to voice these same demands for inclusion and visibility in the activists’ speeches at the Toronto parade. We need to understand the double discrimination suffered by LGBTTIQ2S members of ethno-cultural communities; we must recognize the lack of spaces devoted to them in the public and socio-cultural landscape; and we must, of course, address the critical lack of funding for their community organizations.

A policy of inclusion

At Montréal Pride, we examined our own management of issues faced by ethno-cultural communities, their visibility and their place in our program of events. In response, we have in recent years established a policy of inclusion of ethno-cultural groups that aims to achieve better representation in the activities we offer. That is why the groups concerned offer and manage their own activities.

For example, Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique offers its own program of events, the Afro Pride festival, as part of the Montréal Pride program. Last year, Collectif Participes organized and facilitated a round table discussion on issues affecting trans persons. There are numerous examples and this inclusion will continue again this year. This policy has enabled many organizations to play an important role in our calendar of events. Has it allowed for a fair representation of all ethno-cultural LGBTTIQ2S communities? We think this is a good start, but it is certainly not enough.

Doing more, better

That is why we want to change things in 2017 for the first edition of Canada Pride. As part of the festival, which will take place in Montréal from August 11 to 20, 2017, a national conference on LGBTTIQ2S rights will offer workshops on issues such as the inclusion of visible and invisible minorities and the role of the Pride movement in fostering this inclusiveness. We will present a complete and specific component on ethno-cultural issues. We will seek stakeholders to host panels and workshops on these topics. We will have guests, speakers and artists who will respect our policies of inclusion. To encourage the participation of ethno-cultural groups, we will offer scholarships to enable them to access the conference free of charge.

In addition to the conference, we will significantly increase multicultural representation at, for example, performances on the main stage at Canada Pride 2017. Moreover, we plan to have, for the first time, a community stage where groups who participate in outdoor shows will have real autonomy in the management and selection of invited artists. The Montréal Pride team will work to fund these shows in order to encourage the holding of these events, which will increase multiculturalism and inclusion in the activities and festivities of Montréal Pride and Canada Pride.

Montréal Pride has a steadfast commitment to contributing to the development of greater visibility and recognition of LGBTTIQ2S people, both in our local communities and throughout Québec and Canadian society. This increased visibility will be expressed in media content and material, the inclusion of people from visible and invisible minority groups at every level, in the program of events in general and through the hiring of an outreach coordinator whose mission will be to listen, build bridges and facilitate the creation of a safe and inclusive space for all.

A public consultation to prepare for the future

We are sensitive to equity issues and will continue the efforts initiated this year. Montréal Pride stems from a community initiative. We are here for LGBTTIQ2S communities and always will be. We will use every means possible to ensure that our festival reflects all communities, while taking a firm political stance to defend individuals, groups and organizations whose human rights are threatened or violated.

In this spirit and in order to take concrete action, Montréal Pride will hold a public consultation on Tuesday, November 15 at 7 p.m. (location to be determined). We invite community organizations to take part in this consultative meeting. We will discuss the various significant actions that will be taken to ensure that the first edition of Canada Pride is a success and an example of inclusion for the future of the event.

 

The Montréal Pride board of directors and team.

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