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City councillors polled on Pride Toronto funding

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City councillors polled on Pride Toronto funding

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Updated: Sun columnist urges Jewish community to 'get the emails going'
UPDATE, APRIL 6, 2011 9:30pm - Today Xtra obtained an email from Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy addressed to several leaders in the Jewish Community encouraging them to lobby Toronto city councillors to defund Pride Toronto. Read the text of that email for yourself here.

ARP 6 - Battle lines are being drawn at Toronto city council as Pride Toronto (PT) inches closer to losing city funding in what some are calling a direct attack on the gay, lesbian and trans communities.

Xtra called every city councillor to get him or her on record. If our experience is any indication, PT has an uphill battle: out of 44 councillors, 18 lean toward supporting the festival if the matter comes before council. That’s seven short of a majority, and some councillors’ support was weak or came with strings attached.

In 2010, the city granted PT $123,807, plus roughly $300,000 in-kind services like policing and cleanup.

The trouble may start as early as April 12. That’s when a city manager’s report about PT is expected to hit the executive committee, confirms Mike Williams, the manager of development and culture for the city.

PT co-chair Francisco Alvarez expects the final vote will be in May, just a month before the festival is set to kick off.

The city manager’s report will include a recommendation on whether the city equity policy was contravened last year. Last summer, council asked city staff to decide whether the presence of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid  (QuAIA) was a violation. “Then we’ll know,” Alvarez says. “But if they determine it’s not in violation, council could still decide not to give funding. It’s a political decision.”

Mark Smith, a former PT board member and part of the team advising PT, says there have been several official and unofficial meetings behind the scenes as organizers, activists and community leaders prepare for the seemingly inevitable.

One councillor told Xtra that she received a visit from gay activist Doug Elliott and Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes.

Smith calls threats to funding a direct homophobic attack on the gay, lesbian and trans communities. “The withdrawal of support from the city is based on a lack of understanding of the gay community and blatant homophobia by the mayor and certain councillors,” he tells Xtra.

Councillor Adam Vaughan says efforts to negotiate with city council may be a waste of time because Ford will “whip the vote” of about 20 conservative councillors.

Ford hands out “cheat sheets” to a group of councillors instructing them how to vote, Councillor Shelley Carroll tells Xtra, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Torontonians want councillors to vote with their brains, not with their cheat sheets, she says.

With a bitter fight heating up, conservative Jewish groups are once again lobbying city council to force QuAIA out.

Xtra obtained a copy of a letter sent recently by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to the mayor and all members of council urging the city to strip the festival of its funding if QuAIA is permitted to march in the parade.

Stacey Starkman, communications manager, says the group stands by the statement it made last year. “Gay Pride Day parade has been hijacked by a political agenda which has nothing to do with celebrating the right of individuals to express their sexual identity.”

Starkman says it’s the organization’s goal to remove hate from the Pride parade. More likely, a vote would mean the end of city funding for a 30-year-old event that brings millions of dollars into the local economy.

The letter asks councillors “to support the (near unanimous) resolution of the previous council to withhold funding to Pride until after the parade.”

Alvarez says PT plans to send its own letter this week. “Regardless of what [the city manager] recommends, they could still decide not to give us money,” he says. “It’s last year all over again, but with a different council. If they single us out and [don’t] cut all festivals equally, there is a case that can be made about homophobia.”

Gaybourhood Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says lobbying efforts must concentrate on councillors in the “mushy middle” who have yet to make up their minds. “This is a mayor who consistently votes against our community,” she says.

Ford was recently the lone vote against $150,000 in funding from the province earmarked for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Councillor Josh Matlow, who plans to vote against Pride Toronto funding, insists that he’s not homophobic and says he supports the gay community. “Members of the Jewish community are deeply hurt by the word apartheid being thrown around,” he tells Xtra. “There are ways QuAIA can show support for the Palestinian people without offending our community.”

Councillor Joe Mihevc, who could prove to be a swing vote, explained his reservations to Xtra. “Last year was not pleasant,” he admits. “I represent a strong Jewish community, and my residents were very concerned last year. The ideal solution would be that the word apartheid not be part of the parade. QuAIA’s participation will be intrinsic to the decision. Nothing has changed.”

Although “Israeli apartheid” has never been determined to be hate speech under the law, many on council and in the Jewish community consider it as such. “When some people hear apartheid, they hear anti-Semitism… There’s a difference between the dictionary definition of words and how words are heard.”

Anticipating a fiery council meeting April 12, Mihevc says the last thing the city wants to see is a council chamber filled with screaming angry gay and lesbian people pitted against screaming angry Jewish people. “Now is the time for facilitation rather than drawing battle lines,” he says. “Most councillors want to figure out a way through this. I wish this would pass.”

But for supporters of PT like Smith, the battle is no longer about QuAIA. “If you don’t like QuAIA’s message, come to the parade and protest yourself. If you don’t like what you see, you have eyelids — use them.

“Everything we’ve worked for all these years is about to get flushed down the toilet.”

If PT falls under the axe, it may set off a domino effect. Councillor Vaughan says Mayor Rob Ford and his “conservative voting bloc” are determined to see all city festivals stripped of funding.

Alvarez says PT is putting together a dispute-resolution committee, which is one of the recommendations in the Community Advisory Panel report. The committee will likely be asked to decide whether QuAIA should be forced out of the parade. “We hope to have a decision on that before the final vote,” he says. “It’s so hard to predict what will happen. We are trying extremely hard to preserve funding.”

Many of the councillors Xtra spoke to took pains to point out all the benefits of a big, vibrant Pride Week. Councillor Mike Layton says he has been a supporter of and fundraiser for Pride Week for years. He says council needs to strike a balance that makes both sides happy. “If Pride Week doesn’t happen it will impact lots of people. First and foremost this event brings in a lot of money to our community. We should not be removing our support until we really understand the impact of this on our economy. This is such an unfortunate situation.”

If PT loses funding, Vaughan puts the blame squarely on the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy for stirring the pot and “campaigning for Pride’s destruction.”

“I think that Pride will be punished. It’s been identified as a target by a very influential member of the media, influential at least in terms of the Ford family,” he says. “She’s decided that the community needs to be taught a lesson for some reason, so she’s prepared to whip up a campaign and the Fords are prepared to support her. And there are others on council who will fall into line.”

—with files from Marcus McCann


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Comments

defunding hate is not homophobic
Oh, the lefties who think the world owes them a stage and the funds to pay for their 'free speech' which wouldn't survive even the worst theatre love to claim that those who don't support their dysfunctionality are 'homophobic'. No. Just smarter than the average Xtra writer or QuAIA member, or Pride Toronto board member, or TD Bank investor. They don't mind calling Jews apartheidists, that's 'free speech', not antisemitism, and wait for Michael Went to post that idiotic claim from the Gospel of Brent Hawkes MCC CAP Missionary Road Show, playing soon at City Council. Jeez, don't you miss the times when Pride was about gays who were smarter and cooler and arbiters of taste and not bad taste? Pride is now a gorilla fest. Of course, most of our best and brightest gays are dead, and the rest of you are killing yourselves. The smart folks get out. Really, why not do a study on the attrition from our 'community' based on its toxicity and unresolved trauma? Or the influence of Xtra, drugs, drink, and disease and 'fabu' histrionics? Malcolm X once claimed that organized crime was seeking to distract Black folks with drugs and pornography, but now we have the Church Wellesley Village Idiots, Xtra, and M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E-L-G-B-T-T-1-2-Q-Qs-no-one-likes-me-so-I'm-going-to-shake-my-bits-for-straights-and-fuck-and-party-till-I-die-or-kill-someone-and-bash-Jews-while-I'm-at-it. Wah Wah Wah.
No, it's not
It's not a "direct attack on the gay, lesbian and trans communities" at all. It's an attack on the leftists who think they represent these communities and have decided to use Pride to push their personal anti-Israel political agendas. If anyone is attacking the gay community, it's QuAIA and their supporters.
Why get your panties in a twist?
Queers against Israeli Apartheid are just a trendy bunch of radicals who want their say, they raise awareness but don't do much else. Everyone has their place in the parade so let them have their part in the parade too and get on with it.

#FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS
Have Wong-Tam sponsor Pride - she sponsored QUAIA
Boy, you yobs at Xtra are a little slow. Nice try for Councillor Vaughan to blame possible loss of Pride's city funding on Sue Ann Levy rather than its own corruption, but hey, why not ask Councillor Wong Tam to sponsor Pride Toronto? She already sponsored QuAIA. Deets below. So long, suckers.
http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/sueann_levy/2011/03/18/17673631.html?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4d84fbde2347fc98%2C0
QuAIA's speech is not fair or respectful
The problem with apologists for QuAIA like Brent Hawkes and Michael Went is that they keep using words like "let us always debate our differences in a fair and respectful manner". Yet, the outcome of their CAP report is that QuAIA will have a total win and will continue to march in Pride chanting hate slogans against Jews in Israel. And those slogans are neither fair nor respectful. QuAIA chants slogans like -Brick by brick, blow by blow, Apartheid state has got to go. That slogan essentially invites violence against Jews in Israel. Images of bricks being thrown and blows to the head are hardly fair and respectful.
Rev. Brent Hawkes
Clarifying statement from Reverend Brent Hawkes, Chair of the Community Advisory Panel http://bit.ly/gJkIqR

"Anti-Semitism is wrong. However, unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism are also wrong. They may serve to demonize vulnerable groups and alienate friends of Israel. We hope that the Jewish community and other supporters of Israel will trust that the objective of our rule is to curb hate speech, and respect our intentions. We hope that they will give our new enforcement system a chance to work. We may disagree on the best way to solve the problems of discrimination, but let us always debate our differences in a fair and respectful manner. When we turn on each other, we both have a great deal to lose."
A response to Michael Went
The moment that an organization like Pride Toronto allows a hate group like QuAIA to march, is the moment when it no longer deserves taxpayer funding.
Dear o dear
What if a bunch of homophobes decided to attach themselves to the st.patricks day parade and insisted on marching down Yonge st. full of their own importance? It would take just 1 minute before the rev.Hawks and his so called task force would demand a stop to funding this irish parade(and rightly so) Pride parade is meant to be fun, not a place for protest and hate.You pride organizers,show leadership and get rid of this bunch.Let them start their own parade and leave pride alone.
Pride is more than a parade
Pride matters to hundreds of thousands of people in this City. As a black boy growing up in Scarborough, scared of my own emerging gay identity, Pride was a place where I knew I could start to find myself and find community. I met my now-husband at Pride. There are thousands of stories like mine, or even stronger, of why Pride matters. It's sad that the negative stories have gotten more press than the positive ones. It's time to start telling our stories. I'd love to hear positive Pride stories of how one learned of a new organization, learned to get tested for HIV, discovered new music or queer art, found of a new queer sports team, advocated for trans human rights, signed a petition for global human rights for queers. There is so much at Pride that is valuable and vital to save lives and build community. Of course it can always improve. If we want Pride to be something more, we can work together to make it better. That's why Pride should be funded.
Yes de-fund
The QuAIA is pink-washing the community.

Richard Goldstone has even clear Israel and states no evidence Israel does not even committed war crimes are target Civilians in Gaza.

he says:
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html

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