Tracey Sandilands, the South African-born head of one of the largest Pride events in the world, has unexpectedly resigned after a tumultuous and controversial year.
Sandilands, who previously served on the board of Cape Town Pride and was Chair of Joburg Pride in 2007, was appointed Executive Director of Pride Toronto in November 2008 and emigrated with her wife to take the post in Canada.
Last year, Sandilands found herself in the middle of a dispute between Pride Toronto and a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which had been accused of anti-Semitism. The organisation was at first banned and then later allowed to take part in the parade, which draws around a million spectators and participants.
The bitter debate split Toronto’s gay community, and this, together with government funding cuts, and the recent announcement that the organisation had run up a $430,000 deficit, overshadowed Pride Toronto’s successful bid to host World Pride in 2014.
No specific reasons were given for Sandilands’ resignation by Pride Toronto. Co-chair Francisco Alvarez told the Canadian media that he was surprised by her decision and that it had been hers alone.
Speaking to Mambaonline, Sandilands refused to be drawn on the specifics, saying only that “I realised the time has come when I have given all I can to Pride Toronto and there’s no point in staying longer. I am moving on to pursue other interests and I believe this is the best decision for both myself and the organisation”.
Sandilands added that she had no regrets about having taken on the daunting task. “It was an amazing and challenging experience. Events with the size and clout of Pride Toronto have a unique opportunity – and a responsibility – to show the world who we are and what we have achieved, and I believe the festival did that well.”
As for the future, she told Mambaonline that she hopes to work in an organization that focuses on queer, women’s or gender issues.
“I just need to find the right organisation and believe in the work they do; and I already have some ideas about where to look”, she said.