St. John's Pride, Palestine Action YYT say they're taking a stand against corporatization of Pride

Palestine Action YYT organizer Nikita Stapleton says the BDS list prohibits St. John's Pride from accepting donations from certain companies.
Palestine Action YYT organizer Nikita Stapleton says the boycott, divestment and sanctions list prohibits St. John's Pride from accepting donations from certain companies. (CBC)

After a corporate sponsor publicly parted ways with St. John's Pride over a commitment to boycott certain companies, a pro-Palestinian advocate that has partnered with the organization defended the list of targeted companies, saying it's about not being under the thumb of corporate interests.

Nikita Stapleton, one of the organizers of Palestine Action YYT, which will be the grand marshals of the July 21 Pride parade in St. John's, says the movement to reject "corporatization" of Pride isn't new.

"In this case, it's just especially antithetical to ask us — as a group that's opposing genocide — to march alongside companies that are implicated in that genocide."

When St. John's Pride tapped Stapleton's organization earlier this week to be the grand marshals in its annual parade, Palestine Action YYT had its own set of requirements for its participation, including taking action against companies on the boycott, divestment and sanctions — or BDS — list. The agreement prohibits St. John's Pride from accepting donations from certain companies or allowing Pride to be used for corporations' public reputation.

The commitment to the BDS list has already had an impact.

Harvey's Home Heating is part of the A. Harvey Group of Companies, as is Browning Harvey Ltd., the local bottler of Pepsi — and PepsiCo is on the list.

Harvey's general manager Chris Forward said the company has cancelled its Pride on the Pier event and pulled its sponsorship of St. John's Pride. Harvey's is making a direct donation to another group within the local 2SLGBTQ+ community and will be financially compensating scheduled performers, he told CBC News on Thursday.

Eddy St. Coeur is the external co-chair of St. John's Pride.
St. John's Pride co-chair Eddy St. Coeur says the board is asking for community patrons to help fund the festival. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Eddy St. Coeur, external co-chair of St. John's Pride, said rather than be beholden to companies that can pull funding on short notice, the board is now turning toward individuals to help fund the festival.

"As we saw this week, [it's] very, very, very easy and people will react very quickly to pull their support if they're not getting the positioning and brand positioning out of the festival that they had expected," said St. Coeur.

St. Couer said other organizations, like Pride P.E.I. and Fredericton Pride, have also made similar moves recently to drop connections to companies on the BDS list.

Move carefully considered

St. Coeur said the parade represents more than the 2SLGBTQ+ community and St. John's Pride researched Palestine Action YYT before approaching the group.

"We started to really understand where these two issues kind of intersect. And then we approached the group and here we are today and we're really happy that we did that," said St. Coeur.

While there has been some negative reaction, Stapleton said it's been mostly positive.

"It means so much for us to see this recognized — the connection between all of our liberation," said Stapleton

Palestine Action YYT has also asked the parade be police-free, with no uniformed officers and no law enforcement symbols, and that there be more engagement with Indigenous and racialized communities.

Stapleton said people around the world have different ideas on how to resolve the situation in Palestine and someone who joins the parade isn't committing to a specific solution.

"You're definitely agreeing that what's happening now cannot continue. And I think that's something that we can all get behind," said Stapleton.

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