Ryerson in the running to host WorldPride events

Representatives from the university and Pride Toronto say Ryerson is in talks to take part in WorldPride Toronto in 2014.

“Our plan is to be involved and to have a very supportive relationship with WorldPride in 2014,” said Ryerson president Sheldon Levy. “We hope to have a significant involvement.”

An international political and cultural event, WorldPride promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues globally, and will be hosted in Toronto next year. As is the case for Pride Week, an annual event that celebrates the LGBT community, the Church and Wellesley Village will be the centre of WorldPride. But organizers want the whole city to also embrace the event.

“We will definitely be participating in WorldPride,” said Luke Greidanus, student co-chair for Positive Space Ryerson, a group that works to increase awareness of sexual and gender diversity on campus. “Plans and discussion will probably commence once Pride 2013 is over.”

In 2009, Toronto won the bid to host WorldPride at the international InterPride Conference. Delegates voted 77 to 61 in favour of Toronto hosting the event over Stockholm.

A second round of voting ensued in order to guarantee that the winning bid had the two-thirds majority vote count needed to host the event. Toronto won 78 per cent of the vote in the second round.

Pride Toronto expects 2.4 million people to attend, which is more than double the numbers for Pride Week.

“It will have been the largest gay event to have ever taken place,” said Sean Hillier, co-chair of the board of directors for Pride Toronto, the not-for-profit organization that hosts Pride Week. “This will have the same feel as normal Toronto Pride but much larger.”

WorldPride Toronto will be the fourth event of its kind.

Rome held the first WorldPride in 2000, and Jerusalem followed in 2006. And this past summer, London hosted WorldPride 2012.

As for the 2014 event, some think that Ryerson would do well to get in on WorldPride celebrations.

“I think Ryerson can step up and be seen on the world stage from the LGBT lens when visitors from across the world come to Toronto,” said Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. She suggests Ryerson offer up the use of the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), located in  Maple Leaf Gardens, for the event. 

“You’re right at the heart of the Village there,” said Wong-Tam. 

Pride Toronto has also reached out to the school about possible things the university could do to accommodate the event, and has also looked at the MAC as a feasible location for WorldPride. 

The organization is contemplating hosting interfaith services there. Another possibility is using the MAC as a host venue for WorldPride’s opening and closing ceremonies.

“The university has never been formally asked,” said Hillier about the possible use of the MAC. “We’re still working through the details.”

Pride Toronto is also considering using the closed off section of Gould Street within Ryerson’s campus to host a human rights conference or art exhibitions.

Although Pride Toronto clearly has ideas for the school, the organization and the university have not nailed down any plans yet. Still, Hillier is convinced Ryerson will have an important role to play in WorldPride.

“As much as we can utilize the university, I think the university will be open to us utilizing it as well,” he said.

Levy says he prefers not to comment much on the event because the two sides have not worked out the details. But he’s optimistic.

Whether from student groups or school faculties, Hillier says Pride Toronto welcomes interaction from Ryerson at any level.

Ryerson participation in WorldPride could be an ideal way for the school to show support for its LGBT students, faculty and staff, he said.

“It’s taking place on their doorstep,” said Hillier. “Being a part of that would be being a part of history.”

Should it choose to, Ryerson has just over a year to start creating that history.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 3, 2013.

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