Kawartha Lakes Pride frustrated with city’s refusal to allow Pride beach social

City says it was all about lack of ‘appropriate permits’

By Roderick Benns

Pride Week in Kawartha Lakes ended on a sour note when the city refused to allow a beach social to take place at Garnet Graham Beach Park in Fenelon Falls.

The social was to have taken place last Saturday. But in a social media post made on the day it was to have occurred, organizers were clearly frustrated.

City of Kawartha Lakes has insisted that we CANCEL our beach hangout today that was scheduled from 1pm-4pm. Apparently we are not allowed to gather together at the beach to enjoy public spaces, despite explaining there would be no branding on site or product being sold, and was intended to be a simple invitation to gather with like minded folk to enjoy the sunshine. Even after explaining this to them, they demanded we make this post,” reads the social media notice.

The Advocate contacted the city to find out why this was the case. Ryan Cowieson, a communications officer for the city, said that municipal event applications are requested for public events taking place on municipal property “that may have a significant impact on municipal services and/or fall under certain criteria.”

Mayor Andy Letham helped raise the Pride flag in June this year.

“This documentation is required from all groups to help ensure community safety. The event organizers did not secure the appropriate permits to hold the event at Garnet Graham Beach Park this past Saturday, July 9,” said Cowieson.

He added that, “Along with many municipalities during Pride Month in June, Council and staff celebrated the LGBTQ+ community and its contributions to Kawartha Lakes in a variety of ways including a flag raising at City Hall.”

Even that was contentious, though, as Kawartha Lakes Pride’s executive director, Rylee Rae, was expecting city participation for a flag raising on Kawartha Lakes Pride Week, which doesn’t fall until the first week of July. But Mayor Andy Letham had already done a flag raising in June.

“The city did not receive a formal request to raise the flag again in July, so another flag raising was not organized,” said Cowieson. “For the past several years, Mayor and Council have happily arranged a flag raising with Kawartha Lakes Pride and would do so again if requested in future years,” said Cowieson.

The definition of “formal” seems to be part of the issue, as Rae did produce emails that showed communication with city staff for their second flag raising request.

Not an Event

Rae said their beach social was not “an event,” and was misinterpreted by Courtney Boyd, community development coordinator in the city’s Parks and Recreation division.

“Boyd had access to this schedule of events and activities as early as June 15. The city had access to it as early as June 9. In our application processes, which we completed with accuracy and approval, never once was it addressed or mentioned,” said Rae.

Executive director of Kawartha Lakes Pride, Rylee Rae.

It was only after the Friday events did the city ask Kawartha Lakes Pride to cancel the Saturday beach social.

“We provided ample description and further discussion and they still have not even told us what laws or bylaws we were in violation of.”

Rae says they were intending to abide by section 4 in the bylaws, to do with park hours, and that their intended time of 1-4 pm met this requirement.

“We also abided by section 5, which means no access to restricted areas, liquor, firearms or weapons, fireworks, hunting, dumping, littering, encroachment, fires or BBQs, camping or lodging, tents or structures, disorderly conduct, loudspeakers, advertising or business operations, water pollution, or liquidation/auction sales were planned for Saturday July 9 by Kawartha Lakes Pride or advertised to host any such things.”

Rae said there were not going to be any marches, drills, parades, political or religious gatherings, processions, plays, ceremonies, concerts, or entertainment, either.

“We are asking the city to advise which bylaw was violated by stating we would be present on public city property, in a non-official capacity, beyond identifying ourselves as part of an organization and asserting that we would provide safety, comfort and social connection,” Rae said.

They said a huge issue with queer folk “is that they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin.”

“We wanted people to know they could enjoy this public space (the beach social). So why do I need a permit to go to the beach, say I’m queer, and have some queer friends join me?” they asked.

Rae said with no signage, no sales, no tents, and nothing being handed out, it still doesn’t make sense. “We didn’t even want to hang a flag so we wouldn’t get in trouble. I had done my due diligence.”

The city has made “permit issuing a logistical nightmare,” Rae said. “Where was the help? Where were the suggestions?”

On the positive side, they consider Pride Week in Fenelon Falls a huge success overall.

“Everything was sold out, it was fantastic. We gave out 1,100 flags at Pride in the Park and none were left,” they said.

They also gave a shout-out to the great support from all first responders, including paramedics, fire, and police services. Next year organizers are hoping to have events in several centres in Kawartha Lakes, from Lindsay, to Fenelon Falls, to Bobcaygeon.


  1. Karla Forgaard-Pullen says:

    Apart from the inference of ignorance and or discrimination by municipal employees, this story again highlights the poor communication skills of Kawartha Lakes departments.

  2. Pete Walendzewicz says:

    About time the vast majority stopped being constantly pushed by the very small minority.

    • Tina Quellette says:

      I assume you’re referring to the constant punishing of the majority of public citizens by a small number of government beauraucrats that continue to use legislation to stifle the freedoms of the public?

  3. Ann-Marie Carruth says:

    It is concerning when members of the majority perceive or act as if they are the minority.

  4. Terri Mitchell says:

    Did any local politicians attend the Pride weekend, in Fenelon Falls?

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