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Pride Toronto censorship: How it came to this

Pride Toronto censorship: How it came to this

I was among a small group of gay and lesbian people who gathered at Toronto City Hall on June 14 to speak against the motion to deny funding to Pride Toronto if it didn’t effectively censor the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA). The motion was declared redundant and withdrawn before any of us had a chance to speak on it. You can read many of the deputations here. Below is an excerpt of what I planned to say to the executive committee that day had I had the chance.

***
How did it come to this? How did we get here?

I think you were duped. Martin Gladstone, Carol Pasternak and Avi Benlolo of the Friends of the Simon Weisenthal Center came to visit. Their supporters wrote to you echoing their sentiments. Cumulatively, they convinced some of you that sinister, dangerous, potentially violent – even terrorist – forces were seeping into the Pride parade. They said that by funding Pride Toronto, the city could be held complicit in the court of public opinion for fanning the flames of anti-Semitic hatred.

An entirely new and ill-equipped management team at Pride Toronto, with little institutional knowledge of Pride’s relationship with the city, and with virtually no connection to Toronto’s local gay and lesbian communities, was similarly duped. The organization twisted itself into all kinds of rhetorical and procedural knots in a misguided effort to reconcile mutually exclusive goals. Ultimately, management at Pride Toronto chose to alienate its core constituency of gay and lesbian people, partly because it believed the city would otherwise withdraw its support.

A seed, cultivated by city officials, germinated into a polarizing, fear-fuelled monster. But city councillors and staff, seeing the gathering clouds of controversy, retreated to the back room, leaving Pride Toronto to twist alone in the wind. The deal is a stinker. In effect, Pride Toronto secures its 2010 city funding by agreeing to limit the free expression of gay and lesbian people. It’s an assault on the very foundational root of the sexual liberation movement.

Xtra has followed QuAIA and Pride Toronto on this for more than two years. I travelled to Israel last year about this time, specifically to better my understanding of these issues. I attended the Pride festival in Tel Aviv (a celebration bankrolled entirely by the municipality there).

Xtra was there at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre last spring, at the QuAIA event for which the 2009 grand marshal — former grand marshal — El-Farouk Khaki, took such heat. Xtra reporters interviewed QuAIA members as they marched in the 2009 parade. And Xtra writers and editors, myself included, have come to know them.

In my experience, this is a community — QuAIA — that includes clear-eyed, respected, illustrious gay and lesbian activists, some with decades of experience. There are also passionate undergraduates, some of whom are only just learning to exercise their prerogative for dissent. There are Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and others. There are Israelis and Palestinians. Cumulatively, these people have a cogent, valid — though controversial and polarizing — position. And in my estimation, there is not a violent or dangerous impulse among them. They are gay and lesbian human rights activists for goodness’ sake.

You have the option to demonstrate just and fair leadership today. You can effect positive change in this matter right now. I urge you to declare that QuAIA’s presence in the Pride parade does not violate the City of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy.

It is your policy after all, and it’s the right thing to do.

Comments

@ Just Saying...exactly my point
Business has no heart and no mind...it's all about the bottom dollar and the ROI, return on investment...perhaps it is a good thing that they go. And if we need to get back to grass roots...let's get back to "our" grass roots and the issues that impact on us....there's still lots of work to be done on the domestic front and on the gay awareness front. If we're going to get political, make it relevant!...So does anybody know if there is an initiative to fight the systemic discrimination of the CBS? I want to join that.
The funding should stop
Yes, that's it exactly. Our tax money and these corporate sponsorships are going to gay organizations now apparently run by people with distorted one-sided political views that have nothing to do with being gay. It's fine that these people have taken over gay organizations but the funding and sponsorship should stop because it's being channelled into extremist political causes that 95% of gay people don't support. I no longer feel any solidarity with these organisations. They use the words gay and queer but they are not acting in my name or in my interests.
Just watching from the outside
It seems to me that maybe that maybe the with draw of civic and corporate funding may be a good thing? After all, when it comes down to the simple fact that it's their money and it always has had strings attached. You were all fooling yourselves if you thought it was their way of supporting the community and not just an attempt to make more money for themselves. This year with the QuAIA, the city and the corporations just decided to pull those strings and like it or not they have the right to do that, especially if they think that with the addition of such a inflammatory message that is there will not be an adequate return on their investment. You can call it, ''censorship'' but really it's just business, Pride Toronto is no longer offering the product that the corporations and the city want to invest in (a big party) and so they are taking their business and money elsewhere. It's not about censorship or arts funding or civic funding or activism or supporting the community, for them it's about a return on their investments. Maybe it's a good thing that they're leaving? That said, I as a gay person am getting very tired of groups of hipsters and poser ''activists'' looking for some inflammatory cause that has nothing to do with Canada let alone GLBTQ issues in Canada and then leaching off OUR parade to get their message out. The issue of Israel is not what I'm passing judgement on, But putting the word, ''Queer'' in your name does not mean that your group legitimately belongs in Pride. Maybe on paper it does... but still they do not legitimately belong in a Pride parade! If their issue is really important enough and resonates with Canadians it can stand on it's own with out using Pride and ''Queerness'' as a crutch and a backdoor to get into a parade.
The end of gay unity; the ruining of gay pride
I disagree completely. Freedom of expression, yes. Hate speech, no. In the meantime millions of gay Muslims suffer throughout the word without a word of support from people like Matt Mills. A terrible misplacement of priorities. I wish people like this would stop using gay politics as a forum for spreading their own distorted hateful views.
@ Bryan and Queerboy
You're both right. We'll see how this weekend goes before we can know how Pride Toronto and its relationship with public and private financiers will shape out after 2010. The view from the village right now shows alot of new smiling faces trickling in. Signs like that will ultimately determine the future of Pride. It proves that not everybody wants Pride to implode, despite Xtra's well wishing. The editorial director of Pink Triangle Press is particularly responsible for Xtra's partisan coverage of a very delicate issue. I don't exactly what kind of influence the gay press has over queer public opinion in Toronto, but it seems to me they have no shame in choosing sides in the culture wars within our diverse community. Happy Pride everybody! Have a safe and delightful weekend, and don't cut in line! :)
not a hate group?!
Why has xtra sided to help that hate group destroy our parade. This is not queers against Jews or against censorship. It is about Jews/Queers/all minority groups against Hate, and those that promote hate groups as Xtra! Don't beleive me xtra is doing this? Just read the peice above.
Eve of Pride
It now appears certain that some Cdn political advocacy groups and their counsel will be asking the City to defund Pride. They may also approach Pride sponsors. Three freaks running for Mayor now also want us defunded ostensibly over QuAIA. No one knows the Premier's funding intentions but history suggests he flees controversy on gay issues. Our Steve defunded us to the tune of $400,000. This was to be expected. We supported QuAIA, a group with no membership list, no office address, no postal box address, no known sources of funding, no written document literature and a comparatively small group of protestors with likely many infiltrators. We, on the other hand, have no paid legal representation but do have a well meaning minister advising on behalf of us. Concerning the Palestinian issue, Canada has an small but active immigration process and have accepted refugees from both sides of the issue. We could do much more for the Palestinians but surely not at the loss of millions to Pride Toronto. It is still illegal to be gay in any Arab country /territory. The new British PM called Islamic run countries (but specifically Afghanistan) something out of the 13th Century. Why not take Jason Kenny up and sponsor gays to Canada rather than mere sloganeering.
re:funding
I hope funding for this parade is going to be (immediately) withdrawn.
Gays for Israel and real freedom
Yesterday's Gay Pride event in Wilton Manors was an interesting experience. John and I held up my large banner that said: "KUNST, Save America, Save Israel" and had a very light Western Wall in the middle of both the U.S. and Israeli flags on it. It was super hot and yours truely, nearly 68 yr. old, did well with many along the way offering congratulations. Many remembered me from the Anita Days. We also had a booth at the festival with both flags flying and a big banner: "Fight Terrorism, Support Israel" and my banner in the back of the booth. Doug, my lover for 22 1/2 yrs. was manning the booth. We also had tee-shirts on 'Keeping Jerusalem United', 'Infidel' and 'Beloved Infidel' and buttons that said: "Throw the Bums Out", "Obamination", "They're All Full of Shit" besides my own buttons: "Clean Out The Schmutz-Kunst For Congress.com" and bumper stickers on: "USA", "Keep Jerusalem United" and "KUNST For Congress. com and Save America-Save Israel". While it was baking out in the sun, we were 'cool'. Those who hate Israel and Jews, passed by and we didn't bother with them. A few did make comments: "What About the Palestinians"? I answered: "Why don't you take them and let them live next door to you?" However, what was really great were all the people on our side, who came over to share their support for Israel and for myself and who hear me all the time on the Joyce Kaufman Show and also signed up to help and to be visible. It was a steady stream of support for the whole time we were there. While 'gay' flags were flying everywhere, we seemed to be the only ones with an American and Israeli flags flying. After 8 hrs. we left feeling great on how we had penetrated these issues together with a community that needs to also be involved with these i
The basic facts about QuAIA & Pride
Let's always keep at the forefront of our minds the basic facts about Pride Toronto and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA). The facts are simple and clear. The two primary requirements for participation in Pride are to be: (1.) part or supportive of the LGBT community; and, (2.) law-abiding. QuAIA [http://www.quaia.org] meets both of these requirements. Singling out one group that meets the requirements and then banning its lawful political speech is censorship [http://tinyurl.com/censordef2]. In Canada, freedom of expression -- including lawful political speech -- is constitutionally protected as a fundamental right. That right is a foundational pillar of any liberal democracy.

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