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An open letter to Toronto's major cultural organizations

An open letter to Toronto's major cultural organizations

Attention:

Matthew Teitelbaum, CEO, Art Gallery of Ontario

Grant Troop, CEO, National Ballet School of Canada

Alexander Neef, general director, Canadian Opera Company

Denise Herrera-Jackson, CEO, Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival

Alexandra Montgomery, executive director, Gardiner Museum

Kevin Garland, executive director, National Ballet of Canada

Janice Price, CEO, Luminato

Michèle Maheux, executive director, Toronto International Film Festival

Andrew R Shaw, CEO, Toronto Symphony Orchestra


Dear friends and lovers of the arts:

Together with Kevin Beaulieu, Pride Toronto executive director, you comprise the most senior people at those 10 cultural organizations that receive money from the City of Toronto. In 2012 the city gave you a rather paltry total of $6,030,960. Pride Toronto received the least ($123,807), and the Canadian Opera Company received the most ($1,317,015).

I write today with a word of caution and a request for help. City executives made a disconcerting decision Sept 10 while you were likely busy working. It’s understandable if you missed it — even Mayor Rob Ford skipped the meeting.

Council’s executive committee on Sept 10 asked the city manager to redraft the city’s anti-discrimination policy to include a ban on criticism of Israel. Deputants said the phrase “Israeli apartheid” is hate speech and called for Pride Toronto funding to be cut if the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is allowed to participate in future Pride events.

This is despite the fact that last year city manager Joe Pennachetti said QuAIA’s participation in Pride does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy, and the group marched in the 2012 Pride parade to little fanfare. Never mind that former American president Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu — two Nobel Peace Prize winners — have oft used the word apartheid to describe the situation in the Middle East. Or that Jessica Montell, the executive director of B’Tselem, one of Israel’s most respected human rights organizations, has said, “In some cases, the situation in the West Bank is worse than apartheid in South Africa.”

This is despite the fact — most important, if you ask me — that Toronto City Council has no business making pronouncements about international affairs that it will never have an effect on. (Do councillors have nothing better to worry about? Housing, public transit, gravy!)

Of course, I can hear you yawning. I know most Torontonians are tired of this debate. Unfortunately, the executive committee’s decision matters. It is a restriction of free speech and a chilling warning to you all: at any moment councillors can decide to cut funding because they deem something in one of your festivals, exhibits or shows offensive. Councillor James Pasternak (who won his seat with just 19 percent of the vote) and Councillor David Shiner, a former clothing store owner, have asked the city to go “beyond provincial and federal statutes and legislation.” Council’s executive committee, sadly, voted nine to one in favour of Shiner’s motion.

Deputy city manager Brenda Patterson rightly asked if “Israeli apartheid” is added to the anti-discrimination policy, what next? Meanwhile, Councillor Gord Perks wanted to know why Pride is being targeted. It’s a good question and the reason I’m asking you to speak up. It’s safe to say gay people help keep your institutions afloat — the same gay people who celebrate Pride. We need your help — and you should provide it if for no other reason than you could be next.

For example, Ms Maheux, what if councillors got word that Annemarie Jacir presented her film When I Saw You at this year’s TIFF? Between us, Jacir has openly used the word apartheid to describe the situation in her Palestinian homeland. It’s very possible she used the words “Israeli apartheid” over the last couple weeks while she was in Toronto speaking in an official capacity at TIFF. This could mean your $800,000 in city funds is threatened next year because some Jewish lobbyist is chummy with Councillor Pasternak.

What about the year TIFF screened Atom Egoyan’s Ararat, a film about the Armenian genocide? Imagine if Turkish Torontonians had lobbied council to ban the words “Armenian genocide” and asked it to cut funding to TIFF if you ever show a film in which those two words are uttered? It’s more than possible now. The doors are open. Banned words at city hall can now change with the seasons, depending on which interest group has the ear of politicians.

What about you, Ms Price? Luminato has a history of showing controversial work — like in 2007, when you staged the Monty Python satire Not the Messiah. Christian groups have labelled the production blasphemous. If city council can decide it’s unlawful to pass judgment on a nation state like Israel, it’s entirely possible in future it will decide Toronto cultural organizations can no longer criticize any religion.

You get my point. The arts are meant to be controversial. City council should remember the immense collective benefit a thriving and critical cultural community brings to any city, never mind the tourist dollars. We become Russia or China once we give our leaders the power to silence us if we use words that might offend them.

First they came for Pride. I urge you to speak up now, because next they may come for all of you.
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Comments

QuAIA, QuAIA, QuAIA
Hello, I invite all you big QuAIA fans to listen to ROYNATION tonight. You can even phone in and ask our guest, Elle Flanders a question or two. She's tonight's guest. Of course if you're too busy, there's always the podcast. Thank you for the audited statement advice there Anthony; I'll see what I can do. We're getting a new website so that might be a possibility.

And the porn workshop was not about making porn per se, but focused on the ethics of making porn/erotica/sexualized imagery in video work in a world that is saturated with porn and where it is so easily accessible. That internet changes everything. In a world with different bodies, genders and sexualities, it's important that we create a space where there can be critical discourse around the topics that arise. I'm proud of the work we do at Trinity Square Video. Hope you all can tune in!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/roynation/2012/10/03/roynation-episode-40-all-about-elle

And we won't just be talking about QuAIA - Barbra Striesand, Elle's art practice and Pride of course will be part of what promises to be an interesting evening. Love out! R.
Request to Toronto's major cultural organizations
To: Toronto's major cultural organizations - While you are waiting for the City's Manager's report, perhaps each of you can follow the example of the Art Gallery of Ontario and post copies of your FULL audited annual financial statements on your respective websites. That way, you will provide a lens for transparency so any member of the public can see how you spend (1) the taxpayer funds provided to you by governments and (2) other funds provided to you by corporate and individual donors.
Reply from Toronto's major cultural organizations
We have read the open letter you sent to Toronto’s major cultural organizations. As public institutions dedicated to artistic expression, we consider freedom of expression to be an essential element of our mandate. We will be reading the recommendations of the City Manager through this lens when he makes his report to the Executive Committee early next year.

Kevin Garland, National Ballet of Canada
Denise Herrera-Jackson, Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival
Michele Maheux, Toronto International Film Festival
Alexandra Montgomery, Gardiner Museum
Alexander Neef, Canadian Opera Company
Janice Price, Luminato
Janice Price, Luminato
Matthew Teitelbaum, Art Gallery of Ontario
Grant Troop, National Ballet School of Canada
Andrew Shaw, Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Danny Glenwright
It's official! You ARE the worst Gay in the village.
No transparency at the trough
Xtra’s open letter (above) was addressed to 9 organizations that are the top recipients of cultural grants from the City of Toronto. Those 9 organizations also receive taxpayer monies from the Government of Canada and/or the Government of Ontario and solicit donations from the public. However, it appears that only the Art Gallery of Ontario provides full financial transparency by publishing full audited financial statements, prepared in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting principles, on its website. Similarly, CTV news reported yesterday that Roy Mitchell’s Trinity Square Video has, over recent years, received $250,000 federally from Canadian Heritage and Canada Council for the Arts, $150,000 from the Ontario Arts Council and $150,000 from the Toronto Arts Council (see http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/government-funds-given-to-group-that-offers-porn-workshop-1.965177). However, Trinity Square Video does not appear to publish audited financial statements on its website. If a non-profit or charitable organization receives government funding, it should be required to publish full audited financial statements on its website so that any member of the public can see how their tax dollars are being spent.
REBUTTAL - re-post - messed up - sorry
1 There is no ban on criticism of Israel - QuAIA should do it on its own dime and time

2. that Toronto City Council has no business making pronouncements about international affairs --- HELLO, Council has business NOT funding political messages that have nothing to do with gay pride---

3. Desmond Tutu may know South Africa but he does not know Israel or Palestine---

4. restriction of free speech - NO, QUAIA is free to speak, just somewhere else. Maybe their own parade, which no one will attend? ---

5. Turks may protest Armenian genocide but not at Pride Parade, which will distract from message of gay pride and rights ---
REBUTTAL to Danny Glenwright
1 There is no "ban" on criticism of Israel - QuAIA should do it on its own dime and time

2. "that Toronto City Council has no business making pronouncements about international affairs" HELLO, Council has business NOT funding political messages that have nothing to do with gay pride---

3. Desmond Tutu may know South Africa but he does not know Israel or Palestine---

4. "restriction of free speech" - NO, QUAIA is free to speak, just somewhere else. Maybe their own parade, which no one will attend? ---

5. Turks may protest "Armenian genocide" but not at Pride Parade, which will distract from message of gay pride and rights ---
QuAIA is IRRELEVANT to Pride
Danny Glenwright misses the point

1. The City funds Pride to celebrate gay rights and pride and QuAIA's message waters down the message of Pride

2. No one is "silencing" QuAIA, which is free to speak but not with city funding. Why piggyback on Pride

3. QuAIA should celebrate Israel for its gay rights and condemn Palestine for persecution. Go figure
insane attack of the trans
Jessica -- while there are many things to criticize in this article, starting a whose holocaust is worse war between gay men and trans women as to who has the most HIV AIDS is INSANE! Evil, obnoxious, shallow and obscene! The number of gay men who have died of AIDS over the last 40 years dwarfs the number of trans anyone! How dare you claim otherwise. By the way, your use of outdated slogans/quotes is as pathetic as the author's use of his embarrassing quote.
They have already come for trans women
"First they came for Pride. I urge you to speak up now, because next they may come for all of you."

What ARROGANCE! What an asshole!

What self-centred misogyny!

Trans women have already been taken! We are dying of HIV/AIDS and no one, certainly not Xtra, certainly not the transphobic Danny Glenwright, give a crap.

There would be--has already been--a national campaign for gay men whose incidence of HIV/AIDS is a fraction of that of trans women.

Pride is political, is it? This disdain for trans women is political!

Your silence, Our Death!

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