Vancouver Pride executive director Andrea Arnot to join Rainbow Refugee leadership team

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      The head who oversees Vancouver’s largest, most popular, and most visible annual LGBT+ celebrations will be bidding adieu as she prepares to help helm a Vancouver-based queer refugee organization.

      Rainbow Refugee announced on June 3 that Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) executive director Andrea Arnot will become Rainbow Refugee’s new managing director, as of September 1.

      Arnot will be in charge of finance, human resources, and operational strategic direction, and will form the organization’s co-leadership team with programming director Aleks Dughman Manzur, who oversees all programming, education, and advocacy efforts.

      Manzur, who joined the nonprofit in March, is the vice-president of the Canadian Council for Refugees and an internationally trained lawyer who specializes in human rights, women’s rights, reproductive and sexual health law, LGBTQ+ rights, and refugee rights. 

      The new co-leadership model at Rainbow Refugee is part of the organization’s effort to advance into local and national leadership on LGBT+ and HIV–positive refugee issues. The organization assists people who are fleeing persecution due to sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sexual characteristics, or HIV status.

      Arnot replaces Stephanie Goodwin who has served as the organization’s interim managing director since March. Goodwin, who is the former executive director of Out on Screen (which runs Out in Schools and the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival) and the former B.C. director of Greenpeace, will temporarily remain with Rainbow Refugee after Arnot begins. 

      Arnot told the Georgia Straight that as she will remain with the VPS until August 31, she'll be able to see through this year’s Pride season, which includes the Vancouver Pride Festival from July 30 to August 1.

      The VPS announced on June 3 that is now accepting applications for a new executive director.

      Arnot posted a statement on her own social media about her departure: “Over the course of the last year, as a cis, white woman, I have been reflecting on what my role within the social services/arts/culture scene should be. My role at VPS has been a very visible leadership role and many of the decisions that I (and our board) have made, have had far reaching effects on the pride movement in Canada. As someone who walks through the world with a lot of privilege, I believe it is time for me to step back and take a more behind-the-scenes role to allow space for someone else to be in this position.”

      During her time as VPS executive director, Arnot oversaw the VPS transition from a volunteer working board to a governance board with a paid staff year-round. 

      In addition, Arnot led the VPS through a period in which the participation or removal of uniformed members of the Vancouver Police Department from the Pride parade became an ongoing issue of debate and discussion. During that timem, the VPS undertook several measures, including conducting consultations with community members and expanding diversity initiatives and involvement.

      Some of the decisions the VPS made is among the things Arnot said she feels proud to have been a part of.

      “I am glad we didn't allow uniforms or marked cars starting in 2018 and am grateful that our board was able to issue a statement in solidarity with BLM regarding defunding the police in 2020,” Arnot said. “It took us longer than it should have to recognize that even though we represent a vast array of folks, it is our job to listen to the most marginalized voices so that no one is left behind and everyone can celebrate who they are in the parade.”

      When the Straight asked Arnot what she would like to see for Pride in the future, she espoused the importance of something that harkens back to the socio-political roots of the parade: advocacy for equality.

      “I truly hope that they will continue to uplift and support racialized folks, people with disabilities, gender diverse communities, and Indigenous voices,” she said. “My advice, Pride organizations have a lot of power. Use that power for good and stand up for folks who might not have a seat at the table nor a voice.”

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.