Pride on the Pier off as Harvey's blames St. John's Pride move on pro-Palestinian group

Pride Flag at St. John's City Hall. The flag was raised to kick of the city's Pride festivities in July. (7/7/2023)
Harvey's Home Heating says it's cancelling its Pride on the Pier event after being informed by St. John's Pride that an affiliated company was not welcome. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Weeks after signing an agreement to sponsor a major event with St. John's Pride, a local company says it's been blindsided after being told its corporate cousin is no longer welcome — and is pointing the finger at a demand from an activist group.

St. John's Pride has invited Palestine Action YYT to be the grand marshal in its Pride parade on July 21.

That decision didn't sit well with Harvey's Home Heating, which said in a statement Wednesday night that it will not this year be sponsoring the Pride on the Pier event it has backed since 2021.

General manager Chris Forward said in an interview Thursday that St. John's Pride didn't notify Harvey's about its agreement with Palestine Action YYT, whose requirements for participation have ramifications for the company.

"The board's decision was made and no call was made. That's a huge misstep. So unfortunately, we had to cancel this year," Forward told CBC News.

"There's a restrictions list that's going around, and St. John's Pride chose to cherry-pick organizations off of that restrictions list," said Forward, who described himself as proud to be openly gay and active in the community.

Chris Forward is general manager with Harvey's Home Heating in St. John's. In a sign fo the changing landscape in the home heating business, the company continues to buy up the competition, and is now entering the mini-split heat pump business.
Chris Forward, general manager of Harvey's Home Heating in St. John's, says while the company is backing away from support for Pride on the Pier, the same donation will still go toward the 2SLGBTQ+ community. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Before signing on to lead the St. John's Pride parade, Palestine Action YYT had its own set of requirements for its participation, including taking action of companies on the boycott, divestment and sanctions — or BDS — list.

Harvey's Home Heating is part of the A. Harvey Group of Companies, as is Browning Harvey Ltd., the local bottler of Pepsi. Pepsico is on the boycott list of Palestine Action YYT.

Forward said because a fellow Harvey Group company wouldn't be allowed to "fully participate" in events, the decision was made to walk away from St. John's Pride for the time being.

In June, Harvey's signed a declaration with St. John's Pride, said Forward, affirming its dedication to the causes of the queer community, which include providing a safe, comfortable and equal opportunity workplace, as well as a commitment to promote authenticity for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Harvey's is not anti-Palestine, he said. When Palestine Action YYT started its weekend demonstrations in the fall, he added, Harvey's opened up its nearby parking lot for demonstrators heading to nearby Harbourside Park.

"But St. John's Pride has taken the approach that Pride is now liberation of all of us. And I feel that Pride has — and should always be — the ongoing improvement to the civil liberties of the LGBT population, plain and simple," said Forward.

Other companies on the list include large employers such as ExxonMobil, TD Bank, Scotiabank and McDonald's, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador-based companies such as Kraken Robotics.

Money going elsewhere

The Pride on the Pier event is a fundraiser for Quadrangle, a St. John's-based organization that supports the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Instead of supporting Pride on the Pier, Forward said, Harvey's is making a direct donation to another group within the local 2SLGBTQ+ community. Though he declined to name the organization, he said Harvey's has donated money to it in the past.

Eddy St. Coeur is the external co-chair of St. John's Pride.
Eddy St. Coeur, external co-chair of St. John's Pride, says Harvey's departure won't have a big impact on Pride celebrations this year. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Quadrangle turned down a request for an interview, and said its board has not yet "met to discuss this decision of St. John's Pride."

He added Harvey's will compensate performers who had been booked for the July 24 event.

Pride on the Pier was to have taken place on the courtyard behind the Alt Hotel on Water Street.

Forward said Harvey's would like to be involved in next year's Pride events and wants to continue the dialogue with St. Johns Pride.

Eddy St. Coeur, external co-chair of St. John's Pride, said Harvey's contacted the organization Wednesday to inform them of their decision to part ways.

"Obviously it's disappointing to see an organization or a group of organizations, you know, take the ball and go home because they can't put the Pepsi logo on," St. Coeur told CBC News.

The cancellation won't have a big impact on the festival, St. Coeur said, because Pride on the Pier wasn't a St. John's Pride event but one it promoted.

"The response from our community has actually been overwhelmingly positive," St. Coeur added.

People have contacted the organization to ask what the budget shortfall is and how they can help cover it, said St. Coeur, and the organization is looking for more sponsors.

St. Coeur estimates Harvey's had donated several thousand dollars in the last couple of years, with Browning Harvey donating a couple hundred dollars and Pepsi products.

"In terms of our operations, it's not really a big shortfall," said St. Coeur.

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