Independent company reviews Pride Toronto’s licensing costs after allegations of mismanagement

An independent auditing firm is investigating Pride Toronto’s use of federal grant money after allegations that the organization has misrepresented how the funds would be used.

In a statement released last week, Pride Toronto said it hired KPMG in October 2021 to conduct a “grant compliance review”. CEO Sherwin Modeste told CBC News that the review will cover three grants the organization received from the federal government in 2018 and 2019, totaling $ 1.85 million.

KPMG examines and will make recommendations to ensure that the organization’s internal processes live up to high standards, the statement said.

Pride Toronto issued its statement after Toronto historian Tom Hooper published a research report on the grants, which he claims highlights problems with grant applications and discrepancies in how the organization reported progress to the federal government.

“These allegations were brought to our attention. We realized that the scope of this work was beyond the scope that the board or myself … would be able to undertake,” said Modeste, who was not responsible for the organization on it. point in time. grant applications were submitted.

“Therefore, we hired KPMG to do a review of the grants that were in question by Mr. Hooper.”

Review expected within weeks

The review, which is expected to be completed within the next two weeks, will be released to the public, Pride Toronto said.

The review will cover two grants from the Department of Canadian Heritage and one from Public Safety Canada. Pride Toronto planned to use some of the funds from these grants to work with famed Cree artist Kent Monkman on a public art project for the 2019 Pride Festival.

Among the allegations in his report, Hooper said Pride Toronto submitted unauthorized letters of support for its applications, used Monkman’s name to raise grants even after he left the project, and promised benefits to indigenous peoples that never came to fruition.

“I think it demonstrates that Pride Toronto is more interested in pursuing the bottom line of its business. It is more interested in gaining assets on the backs of indigenous artists than it is in addressing the real problems that exist for natives and two spiritual people in our community. ” said Hooper.

Tom Hooper, a faculty member in the Department of Equity Studies at York University, is pictured in Toronto’s gay village on June 4, 2021. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

CBC News has not independently verified all of the allegations contained in Hooper’s report, which were based in part on documents obtained through access to requests for information.

However, three organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations and The 519, confirmed to CBC News that they did not approve letters of support that Pride Toronto apparently submitted on their behalf in support of its grant applications.

A spokesman for Monkman also told CBC News that the statements in Hooper’s report on Kent Monkman Studio are correct.

“On April 29, 2019, I ended a year of talks with Pride Toronto due to the continuing lack of a contract, disagreement over creative control of various project elements and lack of confidence in Pride Toronto’s management of the project,” Monkman said in a statement. “I was extremely disappointed to hear the allegations that funds earmarked for the representation and celebration of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer people and our history have been mismanaged.”

$ 250,000 grant to mark a controversial milestone

CBC News reported on one of the grants last June – $ 250,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage intended to celebrate a controversial milestone in Canada’s LGBTQ history in hopes of improving relations with the police.

Pride Toronto applied for the grant and received partial funding for the police-inclusive project just weeks after making a controversial decision to invite uniformed officers back to the parade on October 15, 2018.

But in January 2019, Pride Toronto voted for membership to continue to keep uniformed officers out of the parade, prompting Pride and Canadian Heritage to reinvent the project.

As part of the reinvented project, Pride Toronto said it had contracted Monkman to create seven works “depicting the 2 Spirit community.” The “brand new series of paintings” was announced on an entire page of the 2019 Pride Guide, which was published on May 1, 2019.

Pride Toronto included this ad for a ‘brand new series of paintings’ by Kent Monkman in his Pride Guide from 2019, despite the fact that Monkman never signed a contract for the work. (Pride Toronto)

Seven days later, in a project update sent to Canadian Heritage, former Pride Toronto executive Olivia Nuamah wrote that the organization had “fully executed the contract with Kent Monkman.”

But a representative from the Cree artist’s studio told CBC News that while Monkman had discussed a project with Pride Toronto, those talks never reached a contract, and they ended more than a week before Nuamah’s report to Canadian Heritage.

Pride Toronto previously told CBC News that after these plans fell through, the organization sought permission to spend some of the funding on previous programming and on a few new initiatives such as a youth conference and operational adjustments in support of indigenous peoples and the two-spirit community. . .

Pride Toronto Annual Meeting Wednesday

Pride Toronto members meet Wednesday night for the organization’s annual general meeting, and while the KPMG review is not on the agenda, Hooper says he hopes to force the organization’s board to confront the issue.

He calls for compensation for the indigenous artists, groups and communities who should benefit from the grants.

“It includes financial compensation, but other forms of compensation, as well as compensation for those individuals and groups whose names were used on these letters of support without permission,” Hooper said.

Modeste said the Pride Toronto board is waiting to learn the results of the review before taking any further steps. He added that the organization has implemented a number of new policies to improve transparency and accountability over the past year and a half, including the appointment of a grant manager.

“This transparency and that accountability was a loophole that I saw on the first day when I took on the role of CEO,” Modeste said.

“If there are recommendations, or if errors are found, like the board and I, we will investigate it and deal with it appropriately.”

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