Montreal scraps Week-ends du Monde festival with only 2 months notice for participants

The city says growing costs and a labour shortage left it with no other choice but to pull the plug on the Week-ends du Monde festival. This marks the third straight year the event has been cancelled.

After 2 years of pandemic, many Montrealers were looking forward to festival

The city of Montreal has cancelled this year's edition of the Week-ends du Monde. It says the labour shortage makes it nearly impossible to organize the event. (Gilles Proulx)

For the third straight year, the Week-ends du Monde festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau has been cancelled, but this time the participants did not see it coming.

Cultural organizations that take part in the event are scratching their heads after the city of Montreal pulled the plug on this year's edition with only two months notice.

The 2021 and 2020 editions were cancelled due to the pandemic. But participants only found out the city was scrapping this year's event last week.

"I'm very dispappointed," said Berta Hamana, who usually helps organize the Venezuelan showcase at Week-ends du Monde. She moved to Canada ten years ago. 

"This is a way for us to show our culture, food and to meet together. And after two years of pandemic, people were expecting this."

Montreal and the Société du Parc-Jean Drapeau blame the cancellation on the labour shortage and increasing costs for organizing events.

"After two years of COVID, everywhere, even when you go to the supermarket, you know everything is more expensive. You know there is not enough people to work," she said. 

"Why did they wait until two months before Week-ends du Monde to tell us that?"

The event, which is typically held across several weekends in the month of July, draws tens of thousands of people to Parc Jean-Drapeau.

"It's frustrating," said Cesar Maldonado, the president of the Association Fierté Latino-américaine, who helps set up the Colombian kiosk at the festival. "It's a great occasion to create ties with other cultures."

Maldonado also said it's a great way for lesser-known artists and small restaurants to gain exposure.

People are seen lining up for Colombian meals at the Week-ends du Monde Festival in 2016. Montreal is cancelling the event for a third straight year because it says the labour shortage and growing costs for the event make it nearly impossible to put together. (Facebook/Agenda Social)

In a statement, a spokesperson of the Société du Parc Jean-Drapeau told CBC News the budget set aside for Week-ends du Monde was not enough to cover the surging cost of organizing it.

"In addition to a shortage of specialized labour, the calls for tender made us realize that there would have been a serious lack of event equipment," the statement read.

The statement mentioned sound systems, fences and lighting equipment as examples.

Hamana isn't sure she buys the city's explanation since other festivals are not being cancelled.

"Maybe [they're] more profitable," she said, alluding to events like the Montreal International Jazz Festival, which is expected to present its first regular edition since the start of the pandemic at the end of next month. 

There is no admission charge for the Weekends du Monde.

WATCH | Berta Hamana on what Week-ends du Monde means for Venezuelan community:

Week-ends du Monde is a chance to showcase culture, participant says

16 days ago
Duration 0:52
Berta Hamana, who usually helps organize the Venezuelan showcase at the Week-ends du Monde Festival says the event means a lot to her family and her community.

City 'fought hard' to preserve event, city councillor says

Ericka Alneus, a city councillor in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough who is in charge of culture and heritage with the city's executive committee, acknowledged that the cancellation was "a bit last minute."

"I fully understand how people can feel about that," Alneus said.

She said the two-month notice was due to the fact that that behind the scenes, the city was working hard to find a way to put on the event, regardless of the challenges it faced.

Ericka Alneus, the executive committee member in charge of culture and heritage, said the city did everything it could to preserve this year's Week-ends du Monde festival. (Projet Montréal)

"They fought hard to really make sure the event would occur," the city councillor said.

She added that larger events have sponsors, which make it easier to be flexible in case costs surge.

Alneus said the city is already working to make sure the festival takes place in 2023, and it plans to financially support groups who may have already spent money for this year's edition.

The city also plans to help different cultural organizations put on events at smaller parks.

During last week's meeting when city officials broke the bad news, Hamana said many people were shocked they had not been told earlier that there were concerns about costs.

"Some of them told them, 'Okay, why didn't you tell us anything so we can help. We can find resources and help you and work together as a team as we always do it'," she said.

With files from Steve Rukavina