Saint John Pride, one of the city’s LGBTQ+ groups, has been put under scrutiny over the last week as its president, Michael Cummings, was photographed at the “trucker convoy” in Ottawa.
Cummings, according to the letter addressed to Saint John Pride’s Vice-President Sara Hubbard, has been on the organization’s board for eight years. He is also the owner of Norcum Properties, an apartment rental company in Saint John.
The photograph, which CBC confirmed with Cummings is authentic, circulated Twitter and depicted him with former People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Nicholas Pereira while at the anti-vaccination protest at the country’s capital.
The People’s Party of Canada
The PPC is outspoken in their discrimination towards the queer community and other minority groups, including expressing their opposition to legislation such as Bill C-16, which added gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, anti-Islamophobia Motion M-103, and Bill C-36, that added amendments to the Criminal Code regarding hate propaganda, hate crimes, and hate speech.
Response from the LGBTQ+ community
The photo quickly spread and sparked much anger and disappointment from the local queer community.
Hubbard commented on the photograph, stating she is “disappointed” with Cummings’ actions and that they “… do not align with the mandate of Saint John Pride.”
According to their website, Saint John Pride’s mission is to “… plan and execute pride celebrations in a manner which celebrates and reflects the LGBTQ+ community while being fiscally responsible, supportive, encouraging and welcoming of members from the community and our allies.”
Other queer organizations across the province have released statements condemning Cummings’ actions, including Fredericton Pride and Chroma NB. Chroma NB, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization for the Saint John area, stated that they “…will not be working with [Saint John Pride] until a formal plan for improvement is established and positive change is implemented.”
Issues with Saint John Pride not new
Queer community member and UNB graduate student Courtney Brown Pyrke (they/them) said that they and other queer community members have had issues with Saint John Pride before this photograph was released. “So many people have brought up concerns about [Saint John Pride] and [Cummings] to the board, only to be brushed off by the other members and the board.”
Alex Saunders (they/them), former board member and local drag performer, agrees. “The issues I had [while in the organization] surrounded Michael not wanting to pay the drag performers properly or give them breaks. Because of my repeated insistence of these points during meetings, it created a rift between myself and other members. The treatment I received during these meetings led me to resign [at the] end of 2019.”
A letter sent by Cummings on February 4 to Hubbard and posted on social media announced his resignation. His letter did not include an apology for his actions, and instead critiqued “cancel culture” and the “woke left mob”, assumingly referring to those who spoke out against him being on the board in light of his involvement with the protest in Ottawa. His letter also states: “… I am ashamed of you and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves”, “you” being referred to in the letter as “our community”, the LGBTQ+ community.
Queer community wants further action
Many on social media have said that the organization’s proposal to move forward and address this issue is not enough, with some calling for the resignation of the entire board.
“Action needs to be taken now,” says recent UNB graduate Josh Northrup. “I would like to see more transparency from Saint John Pride… They have a [systemic] issue, and [the organization] needs fresh, diverse faces, and a complete review of the bylaws and policies.”
A group of LGBTQ+ members of the Saint John community are gathering in response to this incident to publicize their concerns and experiences with Saint John Pride and respond to the organization’s statement that the board is filling their two vacancies and plan on having a general meeting sometime in March to “vote in additional members to add fresh perspective ideas.”
More information to come.