Pride Montreal abruptly cancelled its iconic annual parade hours before it was to get underway on Sunday, citing security concerns stemming from a lack of volunteers for the event.
Festival Executive Director Simon Gamache said the march, which was to cap days of celebration of LGBTQ+ communities and which had been scheduled for Sunday afternoon, would not have been able to proceed safely.
“We were missing more than 80 people this morning, it’s a lot,” Gamache said in an interview, adding the absentees represented more than a third of the number needed for the parade to go ahead.
Montreal’s Pride Parade has been celebrating the progress of LGBTQ+ rights, diversity and inclusion for the last 40 years, and thousands of people were expected to march through the downtown core on Sunday.
Pride Montreal issued a statement on Twitter, saying it made the decision with the support of city police because there were not enough volunteers to ensure safety along the parade route.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Sunday she was shocked to learn of the cancellation, calling the event “the most important LGBTQ2IA+ event in North America.”
“I will not hide my surprise and my dissatisfaction to learn in the newspaper this morning that it wouldn’t take place, a few hours from the start,” she said at a news conference. “If we had been aware of a lack of manpower, or even anything, we would have put the necessary energy.”
Gamache said this year’s Pride festival fell prey to the kind of labour shortages currently plaguing numerous sectors in Quebec and beyond. He also said COVID-19 cases were reported among the volunteers in the last few days, in addition to heatstroke and heavy fatigue.
“Yesterday … we have the necessary resources, but it was very limited,” he said.
Even though the event was cancelled, a few hundred people showed up to celebrate diversity and marched down the streets in an improvised parade.
Other activities were still set to take place at the Olympic Park Sunday afternoon. Gamache said another event might be organized to replace the parade.