Pride organizations across the province are sounding the alarm on rising hate and safety threats, including North Bay Pride.
Toronto-Centre New Democrat MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam hosted a virtual session on the issue saying they’re asking the province to be proactive.
“To lean into what the community members are speaking about and to listen but then to take action,” says Wong-Tam. “We know that security cameras, fences and changing locks on the door is not going to stop hate in Ontario. That’s why we’re asking the government to do more.”
Jason Maclennan, Communications Director with North Bay Pride, says many Pride organizations don’t have paid positions and are run by volunteers.
“We could hire a full-time person to combat hate online. That’s how bad it is,” he says. “We can’t keep up with the amount of hate. Let me tell you about the effects on our community by seeing this hate online. It forces people back into the closet, it raises the suicide rate which is now another burden on our healthcare system.”
Maclennan says the government needs to get involved.
“We’ve tried highlighting the individual. We’ve shared pictures of the individuals, we tried deleting the comments,” he says. We’ve tried everything and we are out of options. Our government needs to step up.”
Maclennan says that also means funding.
“In the year 2022, we received $109,000 from the Province of Ontario. This year we received nothing. We were denied all of our asks of the Province of Ontario,” he says, noting they applied for Experience Ontario funding.
Along with North Bay Pride, Wong-Tam was joined on the virtual session by representatives from Pride Toronto, Capital Pride, Thunder Bay Pride, Fierté Timmins Pride, and the United Church of Canada.
A statement was received from the Province of Ontario, in regard to both the call for government action and North Bay Pride’s funding application.
“Ontario works with many organizations to help celebrate, empower and protect the community to ensure they thrive and build a stronger, safer and more inclusive Ontario for all,” says Mark Pelayo, spokesperson for the Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism. “No one should live in fear for being who they are and loving whoever they choose and our government has and will continue to combat hate and discrimination in all its forms, including toward 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities. Since 2021, we have committed over $130 million to combat racism and hate, which includes $65 million to help protect faith, Indigenous and cultural community spaces from hate-motivated incidents, graffiti, vandalism and other damage, and ensure these communities have a safe environment to express their beliefs.”
Pelayo also says Experience Ontario is a highly competitive one-time funding program with no guarantee of funding.
“Applications were carefully reviewed and assessed based on the strength of the proposal against established program criteria,” he says. “Unfortunately, not all applications could be supported, and we encourage applicants to explore all prospective support and partnership opportunities when planning their festivals and events. We remain committed to helping 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities in Ontario thrive, including through many grant opportunities like the $25.5 million Anti-Hate Security and Prevention Grant.”