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Pride Toronto plans to censor the term 'Queers Against Israeli Apartheid'

Pride Toronto plans to censor the term 'Queers Against Israeli Apartheid'

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Festival organizers 'will not allow participation with this message': documents
Pride Toronto has no intention of letting anyone march in the parade under a banner “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.” That, at least, is what the festival’s organizers have been telling city officials, according to documents released by the city.

The documents, obtained through the city’s access to information laws, paint the clearest picture yet of Pride Toronto (PT) handwringing over the pro-Palestinian group.

They show PT vowed to city staff that they will keep slogans criticizing Israel out of the parade.

From letters dating back to the fall, it appears that the only stumbling block to an outright ban is that the group that calls itself Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) isn’t incorporated — and therefore is not a legal entity. No legal action can be taken against them as a group, the documents say.

Instead, Pride Toronto told the city it plans to weed out QuAIA's messages during the application phase or on the day of the parade.

A letter dated April 14 from the office of Rita Davies, the city’s executive director of culture, summarized a discussion with PT executive director Tracey Sandilands and co-chairs Jim Cullen and Genevieve D’Iorio. The letter is addressed to the city manager, gaybourhood councillor Kyle Rae and others.

“A review will be made as to whether they can ban a group on the basis of being called ‘Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.’ If that is the registered name of the group this would prove difficult. If not, it is ‘messaging’ and can be covered under the need to abide by the City’s anti-discrimination policies.”

A similar summary was produced by another city official, Lori Martin.

“Further to our discussion with you and Pride’s co-chairs yesterday, our understanding is, given that this is not a registered name, Pride will not allow participation with this ‘message.’”

A briefing note from Davies’s office
dating back to November, 2009, shows that plans were in the works long before the sign vetting policy was announced in March.

“In response to city staff’s continuing concerns, Pride Toronto has confirmed that it is working with a consultant and has been receiving legal advice on how to curtail the anti-Israel marchers in next year’s Pride parade.”

In an interview with Xtra, Davies confirms that the city had “ongoing concerns” about PT’s ability to implement the city’s anti-discrimination policy, and that those concerns stem from a 2009 complaint about QuAIA. But she insists that the city has not taken any position on that group.

“What you’re reading is a summary of, or some interpretation of, something that was said at a meeting,” says Davies.

“When we have a complaint, we review it, and in this case, the complaint had to do with the city’s anti-discrimination policy. So the city manager’s office was involved in those discussions,” she continues. “What we, as staff, were doing, through the city manager’s office, was working with Pride to ask them to show what processes they have to be able to comply with those policies. “

In March, PT announced it would vet all messaging in advance of the parade through an ethics committee. After a loud protest from free-expression advocates, the policy was retracted two weeks later.

At the time, Cullen said that the sign-vetting rules were “not based on any particular word or group.” Also, Sandilands told Xtra that QuAIA wouldn’t be banned from the parade unless its application was found to be objectionable.

Neither Cullen, D’Iorio nor Sandilands responded to our requests for interviews by the time of publication.

But these documents show that Pride has been telling the city one thing and the gay community another, says Elle Flanders, a spokesperson for QuAIA.

“Although we’ve been led to believe, and [Sandilands’] ongoing line is, ‘Well, they haven’t made an application yet,'” says Flanders. “They’re talking out of two sides of their mouth, obviously. On the one hand, they’re telling us they can’t judge us until we make an application, and on the other hand, we have been judged.

Among the documents is an email from Sandilands to senior staff sent shortly after a meeting between PT and city staff, which no one has talked about publicly.

“Well, as expected, as soon as the news broke the left began howling again. This morning on the Facebook group ‘Don’t Sanitize Pride’ there is a call for members to write to the City regarding this issue, so expect to start getting letters soon. I have no doubt we will also be getting them again, as will our sponsors, and we will be mostly ignoring them. This is how they managed to pressurize us into rescinding the Ethics Committee idea, and so will be expecting it to work again” she wrote on April 19.

And that’s disheartening, says Flanders.

“For a long time, I was defending Pride, I was suggesting that Pride is trying to work through a very difficult situation,” she says. “With this information, I can not only say I’m disappointed — it provides us with enough proof that Pride has no interest in community. First, they responded to sponsors. Then they responded to the city and city pressure. It’s no longer a community organization that responds to community needs.”
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Comments

The Big Snit
Hello, Planet Earth calling Xtra in Cloud Cuckoo Land:- Is anyone there?
Please give this non-issue a rest and get off Pride Toronto’s case.
Pride Toronto is not doing anything different from Xtra.
No one has a right to be published in Xtra and no one has a right to march in the Pride parade.
Xtra has never given a square inch of space to exploring the very complex issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations and has never given QuAIA any free space to promote its views on this subject because obviously these do not contribute to its focus on gay issues.
Pride Toronto has just as much right to edit and regulate its parade to keep it properly focused on gay issues and gay pride as does Xtra.
Suppose someone started a group called “Queers Against Chinese Exchange-Rate Policy” (QuACERP).
This issue is very important to everyone in the global economy but it is not a specifically gay issue and no one would insist that it be allowed to march in the Pride parade.
The real issue here for Xtra is that Pride Toronto has been taken over by NOSOPs(Not Our Sort Of People) and Xtra, wallowing in its usual Anglo-Torontonian xenophobia, has been in a Big Snit over this for some time.
How dare those uppity immigrants from Pizzastan and Samosaland and refugees from Upper Duckwater come in here and take over!
Get used to it sweetie.
Immigrant energy increasingly drives this city.
You either plug in and connect with that immigrant energy or become increasing stodgy and irrelevant.
There are so many lovely full-color gay magazines out there and Xtra still clings to its crappy newsprint tabloid format which is about as appealing as a smelly old cigar butt.
Pride Toronto is doing a good job and trying out useful new ideas
and trying to connect with highly closeted gay immigrant community and with the greater global gay community because that is where the future is.
Please stop hassling them and get with it and do more of the same yourselves.
@ Rick say Censorship is unacceptable.
True ,but it works both ways here you seem to censoring anyone you disagrees with you and are doing anything in your power to do so. But when this started you said this was about the rights of Gay Palestinians and this has turn into more about the Israel then the rights of Gay Palestinians living under Hamas or the Palestinian National Authority. Funny so which is it? the Rights of Gay Palestinians (clearly using as a cover) or Israel. ?You keep on changing the topic from the Rights of Gay Palestinians to Israel(not Israeli Queers, the State). Funny I find it funny every time you scream Apartheid this is like screaming WITCH in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, just like screaming WITCH and the odd part was the victims in that case were all victims of a little acting and half truths, funny how that is repeating itself in 21st century Canada
RE: Martin Campbell
"The pride parade was founded not on free speech, but on the acceptance and basic rights for gays."

The two were and are inseparable. Without the freedom to express ourselves, we never would have achieved even, as you say, the most basic rights for gays.

If in 1980, the powers that be had the legal ability to prevent us from protesting, you don't think they would have used it?

There, quite simply, would be no gay rights movement without the freedoms of expression and assembly. It's honestly disappointing to me that people can't or won't see that.
Rick you don't care about Gay Palestinian do you?
Again Rick you are just repeating yourself. Israel does have a strong LGBT community and they also support the rights of LGBT people in Palestine since they live under Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority who are don't give a dam about about their rights. This is not Israel problem when the Palestinians government does not care about their rights and blaming Israel is not going to make it any better for Gay Palestinians since the Palestinian Government( the democratically elected governments of Hamas and Palestinians National Authority) are the ones they need to take this issue here. Again Israel does have a really strong LGBT community unlike Apartheid South Africa ever had and they also care about the rights of Gay Palestinians deeply. Funny it just sounds like you want to bring this war into our community and again you or anyone can't seem to tell anyone How does a Middle Eastern War have anything to do with Gay Rights in Canada? (both sides please answer this) and Rick ignoring this just proves that you have a wider political agenda then caring about the rights of Gay Palestinians under Hamas or the Palestinian National Authority . You don't care about their rights but like the Palestinians leadership or the Israel Lobby just want to use their suffering to Human suffering to advance to political agenda here in Toronto. Funny you started out saying this was about the Rights of Gay Palestinians but its clearly not, just wanting to import a foreign war in our community and telling people to take sides and using the right of Gay Palestinians as a cover. I really can't understand what human being would do that? and real humans don't use human suffering to advance their political cause. Real Humans will find solutions such as bring both sides together and not making more front lines in this war
Apartheid is hate
Apartheid is hate. Apartheid breeds hate. LGBT people living under apartheid suffer immensely.

Thus, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) -- an LGBT group -- opposes apartheid because the group opposes hate and seeks to liberate LGBT people from hate.

QuAIA is anti-hate. QuAIA campaigns for LGBT rights. QuAIA is a group of LGBT people. QuAIA engages in lawful political speech.

Banning QuAIA, or the words that it uses, is censorship. Censorship is unacceptable. We live in a democracy, remember?
Hate is not a Family Value
The gay community has often said "Hate is not a family value" to counter bigots who hated gays. The pride parade was founded not on free speech, but on the acceptance and basic rights for gays. Pride is not the forum for international political conflicts. Gay pride has always been a forum of acceptance of all people and not a forum for hate mongering against anyone. Pride was not founded on hate but on acceptance, and it does not matter whether you or I agree or disagree with any group that happens to be gay, if they want to push current political issues that are not gay oriented, it should not be in pride.
We should never give in to threats
Let's not allow disagreements on the Israeli/Palestinian issue to distract us from the real issue: the Pride Committee has given in to the bullying and threats of a well-known homophobe Giorgio Mammoliti, who promised to cut off funding from the city if they did not.

Give in to a threat like this once, and you can be sure they'll use it again. What will he and his homophobic allies on city council demand we ban next year?
Way To Go PT!
I support the city and I'm happy to hear PT is banning this divisive group. Mid-East politics has no place at Toronto Pride, especially when the country QAIA protests supports LGBTs.

Party on!
Further Example
Pride, 2007: "We Will Not Be Silenced." Eight men dressed in black cloaks and cowls, looking vaguely like grim reapers, holding the flags of eight nations where homosexuals are persecuted. The countries were Russia, Belaruse, Jamaica, Nigeria, Honduras, Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka... Sure, it was political, but Pride still remained "an enjoyable afternoon for all." Somehow, it failed to stir up the "I'm Alright, Jack" types who are kicking up such a fuss today.
Examples = sure, but irrelevant
Political parties and politicians - provincially and federally - have participated in the Pride parade many times. They are, by definition, "political." But so what? Being "political" is not a valid reason for excluding anybody. The only criteria are: (1) being either part or supportive of the LGBT community; and, (2) being law-abiding (e.g., lawful freedom of expression which, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, includes political speech). In other words: It wouldn't matter if we deemed QuAIA the only "political" group in the parade. As a part of the LGBT community that is law-abiding, there is absolutely no reasonable (or legal) justification for excluding QuAIA. That would be censorship - and I'm pretty sure we live in a democracy where we are fortunate to be exposed to a diversity of opinions, even if we happen to disagree with some of them. That's life. That's democracy. Embrace it. Censorship erodes democracy - and our collective intelligence.

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