On May 5, 2012, Corner Brook newspaper the Western Star erroneously reported that Corner Brook Pride Inc had dissolved. The article also implied that co-founder Christian Corbet had ducked an interview request, and also stated that Corbet's apparent search for his replacement 'came up empty'. I am mentioned briefly in this article as well, hence my interest in blogging about it, and the situation.
Well, first of all, as of today, Corner Brook Pride Inc is listed on the Provincial Government's Registry of Companies web page as being ACTIVE. So, not dissolved at all! More on that issue later. Secondly, I had previously reported on this blog that I had been recruited by Corbet to be a part of a team that would take over the role of keeping this company a float. Needless to say, I was quite alarmed to read about Corbet's statement in the press.
Anyway, when I attempted to contact the Western Star and correct their misinformation and clarify what's really going on, I was advised by the editor that my comments would not publish. Ok then, fine! You can censor me all you like Western Star but good luck attempting to keep me silent! So, here it is, on my blog: the truth about my role, and an assessment from me as to what really went down and what went wrong.
First of all, it's no secret that Corner Brook Pride Inc became the first legally-registered non-profit Pride organization in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, when Christian Corbet and two others filed incorporation papers and launched what was initially an awesome organization.
On September 11, 2010, I had the awesome privilege of not only attending the focal point of Pride Week, but I was invited to speak as a special guest. Having recently taken steps to file incorporation papers for St. John's Pride Inc., I knew that attending and meeting with the founders of Corner Brook Pride would prove to be a valuable experience.
So the million dollar question in this province seems to be: why incorporate Pride? Well, my theories proved correct when I visited Corner Brook. Incorporation = instant credibility. I was shocked to see such amazing support from major organizations, for a Pride Week of such a small city. Fire, Police, and Ambulance reps were in attendance and marched in the parade. Even a fire truck and ambulance rode in the parade! There were floats and banners from several organizations, ranging from unions to political parties to local small business to major international companies. Letters of support had been obtained from National political leaders, as well as provincial. and the media coverage was much more than I ever would have guessed.
Anyway, I took some amazing knowledge and experiences back to St.John's with me and proceeded to use it to develop the biggest and most-attended Pride Week in the history of the province during St. John's Pride Week, July 2011.
Meanwhile, while I was reaching new heights, Corbet and company were struggling. Just days before their 2011 Pride weekend was due to kick off, it was announced that Corner Brook Pride Inc. had cancelled plans due to apparent lack of support from city officials. CBC filed a report that contains a variety of accusations. A city official fired back in the comment section.
One thing I have learned, is that if you are running an organization who's success depends on cooperation with your municipal government, it is probably not a good idea to bash them in the media, whether you feel it is warranted or not!
Interestingly enough, less than 48 hours after this cancellation announcement was published, a new announcement was made indicating that city officials has collaborated with a new group of grass-roots community members to ensure that a pride parade did occur, and it did indeed occur!
For the remainder of the calendar year, movement on CB Pride's website and Facebook page remained very limited. Then all of a sudden, on January 18, 2012, I received personal communication from Corbet asking if my business partners and I would be willing to "take over the helm" as he put it, stating that because he and one of his fellow directors were leaving the province, that "Corner Brook Pride Inc. must now move into the hands of other capable people."
Well, without hestitation, although I was extremely busy, I responded that I would be more than willing and glad to take over the helm in a leadership capacity, to up keep the day to day administration of the company, and to actively start recruiting local members who could eventually take over.
I also made it clear though, that I wanted to know what I was getting into first, and that this offer was contingent upon a satisfactory review of corporate state of affairs and corporate records. Well, interestingly, this request seemed to scare Corbet, as he cancelled out of a planned conference call to discuss these matters, at the last minute. Then after further procrastination, his communication completely stopped. I can only wonder what he was thinking. How did he expect me to take over his company without access to corporate records? What exactly was it that he had to hide, I can only wonder?
Anyway, concerned that Corbet had disappeared completely from the province and left the organization and it's community abandoned, I contacted the Deputy Mayor and other grass roots organizers to introduce myself and to attempt to get some inside information on what really went down between Corbet and the City.
Anyway, as winter turned into spring, people started to wonder what was going on with Pride. A reporter from the Western Star contact me, of all people, to inquire about the state of affairs of CB Pride. I made it clear that I had been contacted by Corbet asking for my help, and that I had agreed in principle, but that the communication had abruptly stopped before any formal agreement or transfer of duties had occurred.
Anyway, as Monday's article stated, Corbet apparently did not wish to be interviewed, other than to state that his apparent attempt to find replacements was unsuccessful. Well Corbet, I take strong offense to those comments! Not sure why you decided to back out on my offer and back out on the entire CB community, but I am not going to sit back here and look like a fool. You are clearly the one who has failed and who has let everyone down! Unlike you, apparently, I have great relations with my City's Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and various councillors; and unlike you, apparently, I had the dignity and respect for my city's community to step aside when I could no longer do my job for St. john's Pride to the best of my ability, and I took steps to put a transparent, accountable and democratic process in place to fill my seat and fill two other new seats.
While CB Pride sits 'not in good standing' with Government, due to their apparent failure to file their Annual Return, (while under your watch, I might add), St. John's Pride Inc. appears to be doing very well and has adapted excellently, though this transition of leadership! While relationships between myself and the new directors may not be the greatest, I can sleep well at night knowing that I put the organization and it's community members ahead of myself and my 'pride'. Whether my replacements succeed or fail, I know I did everything I could to set them up for success.
Anyway, while it sadly appears that there will be no summer pride week in Corner Brook this year, the good news is that the Western Star also reported that an individual named Kirk Quilty has apparently come forward and identified himself as someone who hopes to rally other grass-roots community members to come together to create a September pride event. So let's hope not all is lost.
What seems to have gotten lost in this story is the fact that while Corbet may have left the province, he never did formally transfer or dissolve Pride Inc. This company is still a legally-existing entity and Corbet still has the power and legal authority to make life miserable for these new would-be grassroots organizers. This also means that no other group of people may legally call themselves Corner Brook Pride nor create another company with said same name. This could clearly cause some major road blocks. If I recall correctly, a company left abandoned and dormant will not be formally dissolved by Government unless the company fails to file Annual Returns for three consecutive years. Hence, Corbet's actions, or shall we say, lack of actions, could have lasting implications on his former community!
Anyway, I hope this article clearly demonstrates that although I had previously announced my excitement to be a part of CB Pride 2012, it was through no fault of my own that this did not materialize. I apologize to all Newfoundlanders that I was not allowed to play a role in keeping CB Pride afloat. I will also take this opportunity to apologize for Corbet, since he doesn't seem to want to apologize for himself, for leaving behind such a sad legacy, and for seemingly failing to live up to his commitment as founder of CB Pride Inc., to act in good faith and in the best interest of the organization.
In closing, I see Corbet has recently 'blocked' me from Facebook. I can't help but feel sad and disappointed to not only see Corbet abandon his outgoing community, but for turning his back on me. Corbet and I had many wonderful conversations, and as sad as this 2012 snubbing is to me, I will always feel grateful for his open arms in 2010, when he not only allowed his St. John's counterpart to be a keynote speaker at his event, but in doing so, gave huge recognition and visibility to the trans community and the issues faced by trans Newfoundlanders - something that many other Pride organizations world-wide, fail to do.
Anyway Corbet, if you do happen to come out of hiding and read this little old blog from little old me, I want you to know that the door is always open, and if you are ever ready to let go of your, um, 'pride' and apologize to me, I would be quite happy to accept it and would be quite happy to re-engage you in communication and help you try to salvage what little good reputation you may have left in this province, should you ever want to try to salvage it.
(Depicted here is Corbet with me out front of Corner Brook's Old City Hall on Sept 11, 2010, shortly before the ceremonial Pride flag raising for 2010 Corner Brook Pride Week.)