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As Toronto Pride weekend begins, organizers say it’s more than just a party | CBC News



As Toronto Pride weekend begins, organizers say it’s more than just a party | CBC News

Now in its 43rd official year, Toronto Pride Festival Weekend runs from Friday, June 27 to Sunday, June 30.

As much as the festival is about celebrating everything 2SLGBTQ+, organizers say it’s important to remember that at its heart, Pride is a protest. 

Kojo Modeste, Pride Toronto’s executive director, says that’s especially true this year when many members of the community still feel under attack.

“It is as important in 2024 to celebrate pride as it was in 1971 when we had our first pride,” Modeste told CBC Toronto. “Hate crimes against the 2SLGBTQ+ community are on the rise, especially our trans community, our drag queen community.”

According to data from Statistics Canada, police reported hate crimes targeting sexual orientation and sex and gender increased each year between 2018 and 2022. 

Adam Wynne, head of the Church and Wellesley Village BIA, says Pride Festival Weekend is the busiest time of year for many of the local businesses. (Tyler Cheese/CBC)

Advocates also point to recent government legislation from across the country they say is targeting trans youth. In 2023, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan introduced policies requiring parental consent for students under 16 to change their pronouns and names at school. 

And earlier this year, Alberta’s government announced legislation for this fall that will limit gender-affirming care for youth, including banning puberty blockers and hormone therapies for minors aged 15 and under.

“Pride is always a party, but it’s also always a protest,” Curran Stikuts, director of advocacy at the 519, told CBC Toronto. “Looking over the past couple of years, the rising levels of anti-2SLGBTQ hate, both at home and abroad, is really concerning for us as a community.” 

In light of Canadian legislation, as well as similar bills introduced in states across the U.S., Stikuts said celebrating Pride is more important than ever.

“[We need] to have these opportunities to come together, to be loud and proud and have a lot of fun, but really also support each other through what are some difficult times,” he said. 

Green Space Festival raises funds for the 519

That’s also why the 519, a non-profit that supports 2SLGBTQ+ people, is holding its annual Green Space Festival – now in its 15th year – this weekend. 

All proceeds from the festival help fund the organization’s programming. 

“Every drink that somebody buys, that’s an opportunity for us to provide a hot meal to a senior,” Stikuts said. “Every donation somebody makes, that’s a way that we can help cover the cost of changing somebody’s legal name, who’s transitioning. Every Club 519 Pass people buy, that’s money that we can use to help support the over 10,000 LGBTQ refugees who have turned to us in the past year for programs and support.” 

Green Space features DJs and drag performances throughout the weekend. 

While that’s happening, a weekend-long street fair will also be held on Church Street, running between Bloor and Dundas streets.

Fencing along Barbara Hall Park shows signage for the Green Space Festival, with the 519 building in the background.
The 519, a 2SLGBTQ+ non-profit, is celebrating Pride weekend with the continuation of its Green Space Festival, now in its 15th year, at Barbara Hall Park. (Tyler Cheese/CBC)

“It’s an amazing place with over 300 vendors,” Modeste said. “The DJs, the stages … It’s just an amazing place to be.” 

Adam Wynne, executive director of the Church and Wellesley Village BIA, says Pride is extremely important for the businesses in and around the Village.

“This is one of the busiest times of year for our local businesses,” he told CBC Toronto. “Both in terms of number of people visiting and also the amount of business that they’re conducting.” 

Numbers from Pride Toronto indicate more than three million people attended last year’s festival, and organizers are expecting even more this year. 

Pride Parade to run down Yonge on Sunday

For Wynne, Pride is just as much a celebration of the neighbourhood itself as it is for the people. 

“We are also Canada’s largest and oldest 2SLGBTQ community. This has been a visibly queer neighbourhood since the 1950s, so over 70 years,” he said. 

In addition to the street fair, the usual marches and parades will also take place this year.

The Trans Rally and March begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, with the Dyke March following on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. 

On Sunday, the Pride Parade begins at 2 p.m. and will run along a stretch of Bloor Street E. and then south on Yonge Street until Dundas Street. 

Toronto police have provided a full list of Pride-related road closures.

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