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Hundreds rally at city hall for Pride Toronto

Hundreds rally at city hall for Pride Toronto

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Queers cite tourism, business, civic pride in push to save festival cash
Even though Mayor Rob Ford couldn’t make it to the party in city hall's lobby May 16 to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, more than 300 other rainbow-flag-waving folks did.

The Proud of Toronto rally brought speakers and entertainers from across the queer community to generate excitement and support for Pride Toronto (PT) and other vital city programs and services currently at risk. Each defended the festival and spoke of its importance to queers, to tourism, to business and to civic pride.

No-show councillors included Doug Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti, James Pasternak and Michael Thompson, to name a few.

The councillors who did join the party were Mike Layton, Gord Perks, Shelley Carroll, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Josh Matlow, Adam Vaughan, Paula Fletcher, Mary Fragedakis, Sarah Doucette, Joe Mihevc, Pam McConnell, Janet Davis and Ana Bailão.

“Whether you are an effeminate boy or a butchy girl, if you wear size 11 stilettos or nothing at all, you are all beautiful,” Wong-Tam beamed.

The mood was festive, as drag queens and leather men mixed with councillors and staff. A row of booths lined the outside walls, promoting community groups like Youth Line and ASAP (the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention).

The speeches were passionate and the message was clear: “This attempt to strip funding from Pride Toronto is a deliberate attempt to destroy the LGBT community. We won’t let that happen,” lawyer Doug Elliott boomed from the stage.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to members of the “unofficial” gay-straight alliance from St Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississisauga. The group’s founder, Leanne Iskander, as well as Meagan Smith and Christopher Mckerracher, announced the group will be marching in this year’s Pride parade under the name Catholic Students for GSAs.

The students also talked about how important it is for youth to get their message out. For months, the St Joe's students have been fighting for a GSA but have been repeatedly blocked by their principal. They are now reaching out to other Ontario Catholic students, asking them to march with them.

“Toronto Pride gets a lot of media attention. Not only will audiences watch the event, they will attend the event as well. The crowds at Pride Toronto will allow us to show everyone who we are and what we stand for. Marching in Pride will be great to raise awareness. Catholic school students depend on Pride Toronto and the queer community to help all students,” Mckerracher told the cheering crowd.

GSAs have been in the headlines since January when Xtra reported on a ban on the groups within the Halton Catholic District School Board. In February Xtra revealed -- a fact that was later confirmed by Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association (OCSTA) president Nancy Kirby -- that GSAs are banned at every Ontario Catholic school by order of the bishops.

Another touching moment came when Councillor Janet Davis and her son Keith Prestwich, 32, took the stage to talk about his first Pride. “There was music, colour and smiling faces at Pride. I found a family and a community I didn't know I was part of," he said.

Davis vows never to vote against PT funding, nor any other lesbian, gay or trans program or service. Considering the millions of tourists and economic revenue Pride brings to the city, she can’t understand why any councillor would vote to remove support.

“It would be such an embarrassment, I can’t imagine anyone would be associated with it,” she tells Xtra. “Now, I’ve been naive before. I didn’t believe the mayor would privatize everything that wasn’t nailed down. I didn’t believe he would scuttle Transit City. I didn’t believe he could fire TCHC (Toronto Community Housing Corporation) and run this government like he was a king, and he’s gotten away with it. So I don’t underestimate the kind of bully behaviour he’s exhibited surrounding funding for Pride. He’s been able to whip the vote in a way that I find astounding.”

The rally was a show of unity after a rocky two-year saga filled with censorship and scandal for PT. The organization twice tried to force Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) out of the parade. Ultimately, organizers backed down in the face of sustained backlash from free-speech advocates. Then, a motion from Mammoliti last year set out to claw back city money from the festival for not kicking QUAIA out of the 2010 Pride parade.

Councillors were set to debate the issue again on April 20, but because it was Passover, Ford moved the item to May 24 to allow conservative Jewish groups time to mobilize.

Mammoliti now wants PT to provide “a letter that guarantees” QuAIA will not participate in any Pride events, not just the parade. He plans to bring the motion forward at executive committee.

Since QuAIA has already bowed out of marching in the parade, and the city manager’s report determined the phrase "Israeli apartheid" does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy, PT co-chair Francisco Alvarez says no guarantee is needed. He also warns that some councillors will ignore the report and barrel ahead with an attempt to remove funding. Ford and Mammoliti still claim that "Israeli apartheid" is hate speech.

Council is trying to withhold about $123,807, plus roughly $300,000 in-kind services like policing and cleanup. If PT is on the hook to pay, Alvarez says the cost could bankrupt the organization and would likely mean the end of World Pride 2014.
 

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Comments

Why we have to have Pride
To Rocco in Etobicoke..because Queer Students cannot go to school without being harrassed, because transgender people still have to fight toi have their surgeries funded by medicare in some places, because of the rash of Teen Suicides, because people still can be kicked out of their homes, because people still live in shame of their sexuality leading them to make poor decisions, because we have a Mayor and his "posse" who choose to play the politcs of divide and conquer to denigh us our funding, because of your assine comments, because a group of people back in 1981 dared stood up in the face of bigotry is why we must and always must have a Pride Parade

Don C. Etobicoke, Ontario
Who cares?
Let them pay for their own damned parade if they want it. In fact they should be paying the city for using its streets. Most Torontonians don't want to see this perversion taking over our downtown core. They should all be arrested for indecent exposure and performing lewd acts in public...but of course the minorities always get special treatment. Why is there no city funding for the Santa Clause parade?
Disgusted!
With Rob Ford's agenda
QuAIA
Jim, you should know by now that Xtra can't resist an opportunity to advocate for QuAIA. But, unlike the constantly self-promoting members of the Hawkes panel, at least Xtra is transparent and direct about its support for QuAIA (as opposed to the Hawkes report that proposed a left-wing controlled system that would have resulted in QuAIA marching at Pride and QuAIA opponents never being able to complain about it again). I'd rather deal with Matt Mills of Xtra than Brent Hawkes, Doug Elliot or Michael Went of the Community Advisory Panel.
Bias
Ms Houston, I admire your writing and enjoy reading your articles. I can see you're a serious journalist, something Xtra seriously needs. However, every so often you introduce something that makes me think I'm reading opinion rather than news. I'm talking about this line:..............."The organization twice tried to force Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) out of the parade. Ultimately, organizers backed down in the face of sustained backlash from free-speech advocates."..................Did someone at Xtra add that? It doesn't sound like you. I'd keep a neutral point of view or else you'll find it difficult to find work as a mainstream journalist later.
It's our fault
We cannot go around blaming Ford or anyone else for what we've done to Pride. Mismanagement, alienation of the Jewish community, civil war within our community, etc. Nope, it's the fault of about 200 politicos (perhaps just 2 or 3 radicals) who have since G20 made it their life mission to subordinate gay politics to their own political agendas. Rather than celebrate Pride and what we've achieved, they feel there is a constant need to agitate and be in the face of everyone else. There's absolutely no reason why the gay community should be at odds with Ford, Harper and the next Tory government in Ontario. Regardless of what they really believe, they've consistently shown a willingness to leave us alone and even to continue to support us. Indeed, many on the right are too happy at all about that, but still that's what we've achieved. So we have all this capital, all this good will, and we're risking it all by allowing a handful of unelected hacks to go around, saying they represent all of us, fracking up our own affairs and picking fights. We did that.
Gay Pride for Gays
I think the solution is to make gay pride gay again. Toronto Pride has gotten so "inclusive" and so busy trying to be everything to everyone (including haters), it's no wonder it can't move forward (by the way, no surprises that Xtra couldn't resist an opportunity to plug their favourite hate group.)
City funding must meet City objectives
The City funds events to promote the healthy fabric of a diverse city. Hateful messaging simply does not meet the criteria. It's time for everyone to take their free speech out of the government funded Pride festival, just as QuAIA did. Don't give City Hall a reason to cut funding. Protest anywhere except in a City funded event. If you love Pride, don't wreck it for everyone. Use the event promote gay rights and inclusion, and everyone will be happy.
We're in Turmoil
Yes City Hall (or more likely Rob Ford and his pal "Gino boy")did turf Xtra off City and Library Computers. There was an officious message from the City saying that I was trying to access an illegal site. So I guess we know where this fat slob is heading. It would be legally impossible to clawback 2010 Pride money over QuAIA but Ford is not a lawyer and has got city money to burn to pay for his lame court cases.

Conservative Jewish groups do not like gays anywhere/anytime. Their Bible tells them gays are evil even though we know Stephen Hawking has stated God is just a fairy tale. They are instructed to stone gays - which is surprising with what they went through. They are a small group fighting a very large Gay community.
Oh Michel
What could I say that you wouldn't hear.

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