A post-festival Pride town-hall meeting on Sept 13 was notable mostly for what was left unspoken.
While organizers boasted of a successful 26th annual festival, a former board member and volunteer has rained on their party with accusations of mismanagement on the Pride board.
Guy Hughes, who resigned from the board in 2011
, says that while chair Loresa Novy cares deeply for Ottawa’s queer community, she is not qualified for the position. Hughes accused Novy of incompetence in a lengthy letter sent to media ahead of this year’s Pride Week.
“She does have other commitments and I recognize that, but it’s quite clear that she has been negligent toward the festival,” Hughes tells Xtra. “I knew she was incompetent when I resigned, and I knew the festival was a sinking ship.”
Hughes says Novy specifically elected members to the Pride board who would act subserviently. In addition, she does not accept criticism, he says.
For her part, Novy dismisses Hughes and says he is “mentally unstable.” She did not address Hughes’s letter or accusations at the post-Pride meeting.
Chair Loresa Novy, seen here at the Pride awards gala, has dismissed Hughes as "mentally unstable."
“He wanted to make changes. I don’t think he knew enough about how the organization works, and some of his actions ended up being more harmful than positive in the outcome,” she says.
But Hughes says the Pride board has “utterly failed” to provide Ottawa with a well-planned festival.
“They have not put the effort in that maximizes their capacity as individuals or the capacity of the corporation,” Hughes says.
“The Pride Guide is the clearest product of the organizational failures at Capital Pride,” Hughes says, noting that this year’s guide was a “carbon copy” of last year’s booklet and even listed events at unconfirmed venues.
Additionally, Hughes thinks parade security was inadequate. He says he witnessed spectators who were put in harm’s way because not enough security was brought in to keep people off the road.
“I was extremely concerned while watching the parade that someone was going to get killed," Hughes says. “My experience with risk is that these are not risks you take. You have to police the line.”
Hughes also created a blog, titled Capital Pride Revealed, where he posted emails sent between board members that he says outline these alleged failures. While the site has now been taken down and Hughes has apologized for creating it, Novy says it infringed on a confidentiality agreement Hughes signed. Hughes denies signing an agreement.
The public spat has community members talking, and several have also criticized Novy’s handling of the annual event.
Wicked Wanda’s owner Wanda Cotie says she was surprised by Pride’s lack of outreach to local queer-positive businesses. Cotie participated in years past, but she says this year Pride didn’t have an ambassador urging businesses to take part.
“I found it highly disorganized this year. [Novy] has to go,” Cotie says.
Meanwhile, The Lookout hosted several official Pride events, and bartender Jacob Woloshin says he witnessed Novy treating bar staff disrespectfully.
“She’s one of those people who demands respect without earning it,” Woloshin says. “Some people who want power are not good at it.”
Community member Portia Young says the closing day of the festival exemplifies Pride's complete disorganization. Several performers were late or did not understand their proper roles, Young says, prompting many festival-goers to leave.
“The responsibility of somebody organizing an event is to manage it well,” Young says.
But Denis Schryburt, a member of Ottawa’s queer community who is involved with several organizations, says he has never encountered issues with Novy.
Despite Hughes' serious allegations against the current board, he says he will still run for the board at the upcoming AGM.
“She has strong opinions, as everybody does,” says Schryburt, who worked with Novy on the Ottawa police liaison committee. “When she works for a cause, she seems passionate about it and works hard on it. I have always found her competent.”
Novy admits the festival was not perfect and says there is always room for improvement.
“That’s why we have new boards. That is why we have town halls. We do that to get the input from the community, to see how we can improve,” Novy says. “It is never perfect.”
Hughes first became involved with Capital Pride in 2011 in a volunteer capacity, planning last year’s Capital Pride awards gala. Elected to the position of vice-chair of communications at the 2011 AGM, held on Oct 19, he resigned in December 2011, before returning to volunteer this August. He once again severed ties because of the mismanagement of an event held at Gallery 101.
In spite of Hughes’s qualms with the current board’s actions, he says he only wants Capital Pride to be the best it can be. He plans to run for a board position at the upcoming AGM.
“I feel like I have been bullied out of being involved. My reputation in the community has absolutely been damaged,” Hughes says. “I would like to be on the board again. I would really like to see power decentralized. I wish Loresa would be able to stay on the board, and I wish I would be able to work with her.”
Past chair Doug Saunders and director of community relations Joanne Law declined to comment on the accusations.
Bitter infighting on the Pride board, regardless of the festival’s financial situation, is a common occurrence
, dating back to 1994. Guy Hughes Resignation Letter (1) Guy Hughes Resignation Letter (2)