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Stratford Pride Community Centre and co-founder have not-so-amicable split

Brock Hart takes over after Bruce Duncan Skeaff, serving as president and chair of the SPCC for a one-year term
Bruce Duncan Skeaff at the Stratford Pride Community Centre.

Bruce Duncan Skeaff, co-founder of the Stratford Pride Community Centre (SPCC), has resigned as president and chairman of the board for the local Pride organization and says he cannot support organization's current management.

“Certain decisions by the SPCC board of directors and management left me with no alternative but to resign as president and chairman of the board. It had become a very unhealthy place to be,” he wrote in a prepared statement.

Skeaff went on to make the following statement to his Facebook column, Stratford Pride, on Monday morning:

"Not only did I leave (the SPCC), but I can no longer endorse the organization I built over the past two years. I do not support the management currently in place. And no longer does the board of directors have my confidence as founder. This is the fallout from a series of decisions made in August and the methods and means with which they were implemented. To all of which I strongly objected, both at the time and now."

In a recent media release, it was stated by the SPCC that Skeaff resigned mid-August for health reasons. StratfordToday was told that he left to focus on his worsening Parkinson's disease. 

Skeaff said that he believes it was the stress of the conflict inside the organization that led to the worsening of his symptoms.

In a written statement, Heather McDowell, executive director of the SPCC, told StratfordToday that they were thankful for Skeaff's leadership.

"We are so grateful for the foundational work done by Bruce in launching the Stratford Pride Community Centre," McDowell wrote in a statement. "I can say wholeheartedly that I believe the SPCC would not be here without Bruce forging the path. On Aug. 5 Bruce shared the reason for his resignation being the advancement of his Parkinson's Disease. Speaking of paths we wish for his wellness path to be one of goodness and light as he passes the SPCC baton to the new leadership team."

Heather McDowell, executive director of the Stratford Pride Community Centre, and Brock Hart, newly appointed chair of the board and president. Connor Luczka/StratfordToday

The organization declined to provide any further comment when asked.

Brock Hart, a local resident, was unanimously elected as president and chair of the SPCC for a one-year term. 

Hart said that he wishes to emphasis his appointment as chair of the board versus his appointment as president. 

"We have an executive director who is the face of the organization," Hart said. "My job as board chair is just to ensure that we have good governance of the organization put in place ... I think that what has been done is absolutely phenomenal ... And so now it's about how do we now put in place the right policy."

Hart joined the organization in May of this year, wanting to get involved with the local Pride facility. He has served on boards for several non-profits, including the Business Education Partnership, Centre in the Square, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation, where he also was board chair.

He works as chief design officer for Kitchener-based consulting firm Overlap and has also worked with UNICEF, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and World Vision, among other charitable organizations.

“Our community owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to outgoing co-founder Bruce Duncan Skeaff,” said Hart in the media release announcing his appointment. “We look forward to continuing to work with our community partners to serve the people of Stratford and Perth County – and to advance our region as a progressive, inclusive, and welcoming place for everyone to live, work, visit or do business.”

The SPCC was established in 2021 as a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community in Stratford and Perth County. Located at 24 Downie St., the SPCC remains the only rural-based LGBTQ+ community centre in southern Ontario. 

McDowell said that the organization is currently focused on Winter Pride festivities, making that event as accessible as possible, and beginning the process of a needs-assessment survey.

She stated it will be the first time the SPCC directly asks the community what they need from it. 

McDowell estimates that survey will be ready for the community by the end of the month and will be available on their social platforms and website.