Welcoming the return of in-person celebrations for Canada’s queer community
By Anna-Liza Badaloo
After two long years of virtual and hybrid events, in-person Pride is back with a vengeance! But what will it look like? Can you expect the same signature events and parades as 2019, or will it be a brand-new experience?
As Pride festivals across the country prepare for a full slate of in-person events,
sat down with organizers from Pride
Toronto, the Vancouver Pride Society and Fierté Montréal to find out what’s on tap for the 2022 rebirth of Pride.
What we discovered to start is that the need to create virtual programming has revealed a startling accessibility gap. “As a result of COVID, we have learned that there are folks that have been missing out on Pride for many reasons,” explains
Pride Toronto executive director Sherwin Modeste. “Some of them are shut-ins and seniors that are not able to come out. And some people are just not comfortable coming out in person.”
“Last year our streaming events worked really well,” says Vancouver Pride Society interim executive director Lee Keple. “We got a lot of positive
feedback about how that helped increase accessibility and inclusivity for folks who were not able to attend in-person events, for a whole raft of reasons.”
“We’ve realized that creating digital content is fantastic for reaching out to folks who would not come to our in-person events for many reasons, whether due to physical limitations or other priorities,” notes Fierté Montréal executive director Simon Gamache.
Accordingly, all major Pride festivals will hold some virtual events this year, including livestreaming of select in-person events.
WHAT’S ON TAP
It’s the return of in-person celebrations that the queer community is most excited about. What tried-and-true events can you expect this year? At Toronto Pride, core in-person events are back, including the Trans March, Dyke March, Sunday parade, street festival and several live performance stages. “Our Cabana Pool Party is in mid-June, and our Till Sunset party is happening on Toronto Island,” says Modeste. “Celebrations will also include Family Pride, Youth Pride, Sober Pride and Seniors’ Pride.”
In Vancouver, plans are underway for an in-person parade and festival, including lounges, beer gardens and plenty of live programming. “We’re bringing back the Unicorn Ball, the Sunset Beach Festival and East Side Pride,” says Keple.
Montreal is planning for an in-person festival and parade as well, including two Community Days held in The Village. But as most of their Pride events take place in August, they must account for potential changes in public health regulations. “Currently, we’re going full steam ahead,” notes Gamache. “We have contingency plans in place and are working with the City of Montreal, the police force, our partners and community organizations and activists.”
Montreal turned to Olympic Park for last year’s programming, and they revelled in the abundant space and increased program opportunities. This year it’s official – the festival is moving to the Esplanade of Olympic Park. How is Fierté Montréal planning to make use of this huge space? “We’re really excited.
It’s going to be quite the site!” exclaims Gamache. “We’re creating different pods within this space. We’ll have a main stage, secondary stage, safe spaces for all communities and more diverse food options.”
Most exciting for Gamache is the opportunity for the festival to grow into the space. “We intend to be at Olympic Park for several years,” he says. “We can fully develop the site as the audience comes back.”
FOCUS ON DIVERSITY
The pandemic didn’t just bring in-person Pride events to a grinding halt. It also put a spotlight on racial inequities and the importance of representing the full diversity of the queer community. This year we can expect a strong focus on issues of systemic racism, intersectionality and more QTBIPOC performers.
Anti-racism is one of two themes that Pride Toronto is focusing on. “We’re working with 13 diverse curators from across Toronto to really bring the 2SLGBTQ+ community life,” says Modeste. But it’s their Sunday headliner, renowned Jamaican dancehall artist Spice, that really has the community talking. But isn’t dancehall notorious for its homophobic lyrics and attitudes? This is exactly why Spice was selected. “We’re doing this because we want to send a very strong message,” says Modeste. “The level of homophobia and transphobia that exists in the world needs to stop.”
Pride Toronto is stepping outside of the community to work with artist allies who can really bring this message
home. “In having conversations with Spice, we knew that we found someone that understands the homophobia, transphobia and biphobia that exists within their own culture, but is willing to stand up for the community,” explains Modeste.
When most people think of Pride, Canada’s big cities come to mind. But the country is also home to what has come to be known as the Pride Capital of the North: Elliot Lake, located north of Lake Huron in Ontario.
Elliot Lake Pride has been organizing a popular Pride Festival on the last weekend of May in the northern enclave since 2013. It is the North’s first regional Pride festival and draws in crowds from many of the nearby LGBTQ+ communities. Activities include a church service, flag raising, parade and the crowning of the Emperor and Empress of Algoma.
For more information on this year’s event, visit
Montreal produced more diverse Pride programming in 2021 than ever before, and this year they’re keeping up the momentum. “Our conference topics and programming will include intersectionalities; we’ll talk about realities of all minorities,” says Gamache. “You will see more artists that are trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and/or BIPOC.”
Vancouver’s 2022 Pride theme also speaks to a focus on diversity. “Last year we held an event that was was exclusively curated by and for queer, trans and
Indigenous people of colour called Together Again,” recalls Keple. When they consulted with the community on this year’s theme, they got an astonishing 71 suggestions! Luckily, there was a common thread. “Sixty-five of them were around the theme of reuniting and being together,” laughs Keple. This year’s theme, Together Again, emerged as the natural choice.
Check Pride festival websites regularly for the most current information and schedule.
June 15: Cabana Pool Party with Symone (Winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Season 13)
June 19: Island Party
June 24: Trans March
June 25: Dyke March
June 26: Sunday Pride Parade
Date TBA: Unicorn Ball
Date TBA: East Side Pride
Date TBA: Sunset Beach Festival
July 31: Vancouver Pride Parade
The pandemic has also brought environmental concerns to the forefront. In keeping with their second theme of environmental sustainability, Pride Toronto is eliminating the use of all flatbed floats and gas-powered vehicles. “As one of the largest festivals in Canada, we have to do our part in preserving our environment,” says Modeste. “That’s why we’re reducing the size of floats from 20 feet to 14 feet and moving away from gas-powered vehicles and single-use plastics.”
This environmental motive also has community benefits. “We’ve heard from
the community that the big floats take away from that protest/advocacy/political statement part,” explains Modeste. “We see this as an opportunity to go back to where Pride started – sending a message while we celebrate all the gains that we have made.”
Fierté Montréal’s new venue also means a more environmentally friendly event. “We won’t have to rent tents and
trucks,” explains Gamache. “We can move most of our admin spaces and kitchens into the stadium, so we don’t have to build out.”
Armed with the knowledge that in-person Pride celebrations have been excluding some members of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride organizers are also getting serious about accessibility. “We’ve been working with local accessibility consultants on everything that we do, to try and find ways to level up,” says Keple.
“Whether it’s level access or special areas reserved for folks with different accessibility requirements, we’re always finetuning.”
“We’re going beyond ASL,” explains Modeste. “We’re looking at how we can provide attendant care at accessibility risers and work closely with WheelTrans to help with loading and offloading parade participants.”
Olympic Park in Montreal will make for a more accessible event, and not just because of the extra space and stadium infrastructure. “It’s right above a Metro station,” explains Gamache. “Our minibus easily connects it to The Village, or it’s only a six-minute ride from The Village Metro.”
What all festivals can agree on is that this year’s Pride will be like no other. “Society is evolving, and the Pride movement needs to evolve, too,” says Gamache.
“We see this as an opportunity to bring to life what was happening 50+ years ago,” says Modeste. “And for us to define what the Pride movement will be for the next century.”
August 1: An Evening with Alok Menon (poetry, comedy and performance)
August 3: Festival Opening Show featuring headliners Pierre Kwenders and the legendary Diane Dufresne
August 5 & 6: Community Days in The Village
August 6: FeminiX August 7: Sunday Parade
August 7: Festival Closing Show featuring Pabllo Vittar