Pride Toronto chooses new executive director

·3 min read

Pride Toronto announced on Monday that it has chosen a new executive director with a background in community health, housing and development.

Sherwin Modeste is slated to begin the full-time job on Tuesday, Pride Toronto said in a statement. His appointment follows the departure of previous executive director Olivia Nuamah in January.

"Sherwin comes to Pride Toronto during an extremely challenging time for the arts, culture, entertainment, and tourism industries, with these sectors among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement reads.

"While these sectors face great uncertainty, Sherwin's vision, leadership, and dynamic energy will ensure Pride Toronto's continued commitment to showcasing the talent of local LGBT2Q+ artists and entertainers, and to working closely with community partners."

According to Pride Toronto, Modeste is committed to engaging and empowering LGBT2Q+ communities to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion continues to be part of its community outreach and action.

Modeste has worked as the director of community health services, at Vibrant Healthcare Alliance, where he was responsible for health promotion, supportive housing, building and property maintenance, Pride Toronto said.

"Sherwin moved 100 per cent of Vibrant's health promotion programs to virtual delivery and played a key role in implementing community support in the form of wellness packages and hot meal delivery for over 200 clients weekly across the city. He worked closely with other members of the senior leadership team to support community flu clinics and COVID-19 testing," Pride Toronto said.

Before that, Modeste worked as the manager of grants, development and sponsorships at Toronto Community Housing, where he was responsible for soliciting funds from government and private sector companies, Pride Toronto said.

Samantha Fraser, co-chair of Pride Toronto's board of directors, said in the statement that the board met many candidates for the position.

"In the end, Sherwin rose to the top because of the fantastic combination of his passion and empathy, work history, community knowledge, and lived experience," Fraser said.

According to the statement, Modeste is passionate about advocacy and promoting human rights and equity issues in support of removing systematic barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential.

He has served as national diversity vice-president and been a member of national pink triangle committee for the Canadian Union of Public Employees and has been a member of the Canadian Labour Congress human rights committee.

"In those roles, Sherwin advocated tirelessly for workers' rights, including workers from racialized and marginalized communities, and LGBT2Q+ communities," the statement said.

Mark Blinch/Canadian Press
Mark Blinch/Canadian Press

In June, Pride Toronto moved its parade online and held a virtual Pride festival weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization has had a few tumultuous years in which it has grappled with the LGBT community's strained relationship with police and the exclusion of uniformed police officers in its parade.

The issue became a major source of controversy after a Black Lives Matter Toronto protest during the 2016 parade. Uniformed police officers have not marched in the parade since, a policy that Pride members narrowly upheld last year.

Nuamah, however, supported lifting the ban, which generated some criticism and calls for her resignation. The organization has not said if she resigned or was otherwise forced out of the job.