A Montreal woman says she was fired by Montreal Pride after submitting a report that found the LGBTQ organization is not doing enough to include racialized communities.
Sophia Sahrane was hired in February as a general coordinator for Montreal Pride, one of the largest LGBTQ advocacy groups in the province and the organizer of the annual Pride parade in Montreal.
She told CBC News that one of her first assignments was to write a report on Montreal Pride’s relationship with black communities in the city.
After consulting with various queer black groups, Sahrane submitted her report on Feb. 18. It consisted of testimonies from seven community representatives.
Sahrane found that black communities lack trust in Montreal Pride. Her report also mentioned there was a willingness to improve relations with the organization in order to benefit black queer Montrealers.
There is a perception, the report said, that “Pride is still not equipped to welcome and accommodate black communities.”
It added: “There is a lot of work on our part [Montreal Pride] to establish a relationship of trust with the community.”
Sahrane says she was called into the office of Montreal Pride president Éric Pineault less than an hour after submitting the report, and was fired on the spot.
“They said, ‘We feel you’re not positive enough about the work we’re trying to do here,'” Sahrane told CBC News.
She didn’t challenge the decision. Sahrane’s bigger concern, she said, was ensuring the concerns expressed by the black communities were heard.
According to Sahrane’s version of events, she asked Pineault not to dismiss the report and then left his office.
Montreal Pride responds
In a statement provided to CBC News, Montreal Pride said Sahrane was dismissed due to punctuality issues and a difficult relationship with a superior.
Montreal Pride acknowledged, in the statement, that more needed to be done in order to respond to the concerns of racialized people.
The organization said that it created two positions, including Sahrane’s, as a step in that direction.
“The creation of the former employee’s position, and the position of diversity director, are examples of actions taken by the organization to build bridges between the organization and racialized communities,” the statement said.
Sahrane rejected the claim about her punctuality, saying she was only absent from the office once, which was when she was meeting with the groups whose views were included in the report.
And she questioned whether the recent diversity hires by Montreal Pride were sufficient to address the concerns about representation.
“If you’re not able to retain racialized [employees], the organization is either unwilling or unadapted to welcome them in your spaces,” she said.
“Pride seems to have this unwillingness to actually listen.”
‘Corporatization of queerness’
Sahrane’s allegation comes as Montreal Pride is being criticized for welcoming Premier François Legault at this year’s Pride parade, which takes place Sunday.
A petition is circulating online that is calling for Legault to be disinvited because of his government’s socially conservative policies on immigration and identity issues.
“Do not walk with us, François. This is not your space,” the petition states. “You are an enemy. And you bring fear and pain to the members of our community.”
Sahrane’s report noted that many queer black representatives feel Montreal Pride behaves more like a corporation than an advocacy group.
That echoes criticism directed at pride organizations across Europe and North America, which Sahrane says have often ignored the fact that the pride movement was created by black and Latino trans women.
“The main criticism from the black community is that [pride organizations] have completely erased that part of history,” Sahrane said.
Montreal Pride’s involvement with corporations exacerbates that concern, she added. Montreal’s Pride festival is sponsored by TD Canada Trust.
Sahrane called it the “corporatization of queerness.”