National Call to Cut Vancouver Prides Civic Fees

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Vancouver Mayor's Office

435 W 12th Ave SW

Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

To the honourable Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Council members,

My name is James Demers and I am the Executive Director with the Calgary Queer Arts Society and an active member of Fierte’ Canada Pride- a national body which represents Pride organizations across Canada. I am writing this letter on behalf of the national Pride community, as a citizen of a country which represents a haven for persecuted LGBTQ2+ people around the world and an event organizer with 15 years working in civic community development.

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, a landmark decision that opened up the opportunity for us to contribute to our country, local culture and social discussion in way never imagined before 1969. The hallmark event of this development has been the proliferation of Pride Parades and open public festivities held in communities from Nova Scotia to Victoria every summer. These celebrations of progress, community and joy have changed the way we view the spectrum of human experience, how we support and develop our family structures and have promote the evolution of intentional civic communities.

For many early years these celebrations were independently funded by within our own community for a variety of reasons largely relating to the risk of living openly as it pertained to federal, provincial and municipal restrictions on protection of the LGBTQ2+ people in Canada.

While the decriminalization of consensual private acts between adults became law in 1969,  LGBT still people did not receive federal employment protection in Canada until the landmark Vriend Case in 1993 which would not become part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms until 1996. Trans identified Canadians would wait until June of 2017 to be extended these same protections. This culminated with the systematic firing and prosecution of LGBTQ2+ people at all levels of the Canadian Government, Military service (1992) and public institutions.

All of this to highlight that for nearly 40 years of our history these kind of community and public celebrations were held at great personal risk to both organizers and attendees with little to no external support financially or organizationally. Despite this, the events evolved as the community grew and municipalities began to understand the impact of these celebrations on the lives of not just our community but the allies, families and friends who were introduced to the potential of what a connected, resourced and proud community could accomplish.

The first official Pride Parade In Vancouver was granted a permit in 1981 after nearly a decade of attempts and has grown rapidly to be the second largest Pride event in Canada, and the 5th largest Pride event in North America behind New York, San Francisco and Toronto.

Economically this represent an impact of over 23 Million dollars  invested into the local economy over the annual Vancouver Pride weekend, bringing in over 1.1 million overnight guests to the civic centre (2015 VPS Economic Impact Study)

In 2013, the City of Vancouver awarded the Vancouver Pride Parade civic status. This has provided the Vancouver Pride Society with a significant civic status grant applied to city service fees. However, even with this grant, City of Vancouver fees have increased exponentially from 2013-2018. In 2013, VPS’s civic bill was $20,290 and in 2017 more than tripled to $67,956.

While the civic status grant is appreciated, this support has not kept pace with the increased costs of providing free, accessible events to the community. In the face of these rising costs  in 2018, the Vancouver Pride Society  was forced to cancelled their Davie Street Party, which in previous years accounted for nearly half of our city of Vancouver costs and yet yielded no adjustment of the civic fees charged to the society.  

VPS City Bill Amounts 2013-2018

2013 $20,290
2014 $38,918
2015 $48,614
2016 $49,986
2017 $67,956
2018 $57,641

Vancouver Pride Society currently pays the highest civic fees in Canada for its events by a significant margin.

As a series of events which mandates at its core free public and accessible programming for major events like the Pride Parade and Street Festival Pride creates one of the largest annual tourism draws for Vancouver. Municipalities  benefit from investing in vibrant communities, LGBT communities are vocal supporters for their local culture and contribute meaningfully to cultural development and social education. LGBTQ2+ Communities represent the largest minority community by population and an investment in our communities will benefit the City of Vancouver, its citizens and economic growth.It is our position, as colleagues in the development, empowerment and engagement  of Queer Communities across Canada, that the City of Vancouver should provide a significant subsidy to the fees owed annually by the Vancouver Pride Society to reflect the value the event bring to Vancouver and its population. This would be a significant investment in the development of safe, authentic, accessible and community driven Vancouver Pride.

Yours in Pride and Community,