Canadian police allow hundreds to defy cancellation of Montreal Pride Parade after years of pandemic disruptions

Hundreds of people defied a last-minute cancellation of the Montreal Pride parade and marched through the city on Sunday with the support of Quebec police, Montreal Gazette reported. The unsanctioned event stood in stark contrast to brutal police crackdowns on unauthorized religious gatherings across Canada at the height of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

Montreal Pride CEO Simon Gamache confirmed the parade’s cancellation on August 7 to the newspaper. He said the event – originally set to take place on the morning of August 7 – was short 80 staff, most of whom were tasked with providing security for the march by blocking off streets alongside police officers.

“It’s huge,” Gamache said of the staff shortage, adding that “it was more than a third of the required staff, as about 200 volunteers were expected.”

This year’s canceled Montreal Pride parade was expected to draw tens of thousands of people to downtown Montreal, meaning it would have required good security for both participants and local residents.

Gamache said he and other organizers of the march chose to cancel the rally for several reasons, including “the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] cases during the week, several possible cases of heat stroke and fatigue among volunteers who had contributed in previous days.”

“Other people who said they wanted to help hadn’t shown up to previous events,” Gamache said.

He said this led him and other event managers to “conclude that they would not be present for the parade.”

“Montreal Pride is not immune to human resources,” Gamache added.

The CEO said he and his colleagues may plan a replacement event in the near future to make up for the canceled parade.

“The Center communautaire LGBTQ+ de Montréal sympathized with Pride’s staffing issues,” according to Montreal Gazette.

“Everyone has been in that boat,” director Christian Tanguay told the paper. “It was difficult for everyone, but it takes volunteers to organize all these events.

Hundreds of people who planned to attend Montreal Pride’s march decided to stage their own unofficial parade in the event’s absence on the afternoon of August 7. A number of local police officers “escorted” the marchers and helped keep the streets they walked on clean, according to Montreal Gazette. Some described the unofficial events as a form of protest against the cancellation.

“We were promised a place where our voices could be heard, and now that’s been taken away,” Salem Billard, who organized one of the protests, told the CBC. “We now live through so much violence, and even go to Pride events… And we want to take that place back as our home and not a corporate festival [event].”

The supportive actions of the Quebec police against an unsanctioned event, which was officially canceled due to its obvious security threat to the city, were in stark contrast to the hostile attitudes police officers across Canada have shown toward unauthorized religious gatherings, particularly those of Christians , during pandemic shutdowns.

The Montreal Pride event had not taken place in full force since 2019, a result of Canada’s draconian Chinese coronavirus policy. That year, organizers faced an entirely different controversy: Montreal’s pride parade banned a group of Hong Kong gay activists who had originally been given approval to march, citing alleged “security” reasons after Chinese communists threatened the group. The group, Action Free HK MTL, which supported the anti-communist protests that erupted in the city that year, held a separate, unofficial meeting the same day after being uninvited.

Montreal is the largest city in eastern Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec. The city has hosted pride parades in previous years, including a limited version in 2021 due to public health concerns surrounding the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic forced the city to cancel Montreal Pride’s 2020 parade.

Montreal Pride is a term used for a week-long set of festivities that take place in the city each year during or around the universal pride month of June. The organization’s parade is just one of several events around the theme taking place in Montreal over a period of seven days. Montreal Pride successfully organized a full slate of activities from August 1 to August 7 before being forced to cancel the parade, which is traditionally one of the last events of the week.

“Other Pride festivities [aside from the march] went as planned on Sunday,” the Montreal Gazette observed on 7 August.

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