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Pride Toronto distances itself from politics

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Pride Toronto distances itself from politics

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ED: Clamp down on Parade participation is about safety
In the latest controversy to hit Pride Toronto the organization is fighting off criticism that it's trying to depoliticize the annual event and censor participants.

On May 27 the National Post ran a story titled, "Toronto Pride organizers ban anti-Zionist group." The article claims that the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) "has been banned this year, along with any other group that would advance a political agenda."

Pride Toronto faced criticism last year after QuAIA marched in the parade under an "End Israeli apartheid" banner and more recently after 2009 Pride Parade grand marshal El-Farouk Khaki spoke at a QuAIA event titled "Coming Out Against Apartheid: 20 Years of Queer Resistance from South Africa to Palestine" on May 23 at Buddies in Bad Times.

But Pride Toronto was quick to counter that its policies were misrepresented by the Post and that QuAIA's participation last year was a problem not because of its political message but because it was an unregistered group.

"There was some confusion where I said in the past marchers have slipped in from the side and that we were going to beef up security to ensure that doesn't happen this year," says Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands. "That is not because of the placards we're carrying, it's because we can't afford to have individuals in the parade who are not registered participants, they are not covered by insurance. It is a liability issue for us.

"I want to be very clear. No one will be banned because of their messaging unless they contravene the hate crimes laws or antidiscrimination policies. But if they simply have a political position, whether it's prevent global warming, save the whales or down with Israeli apartheid, that is not our decision to make [to stop them from participating]. Pride has always been a political platform."

This year the number of volunteer marshals patrolling the parade route will be boosted to 80 from 25 to prevent unregistered groups from joining in.

But although QuAIA was unregistered in 2008 the group did not slip into the parade — they were invited to march with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Toronto contingent.



"They did march with us," confirms Stephen Seaborn, vice president political action for CUPE Toronto District Council, adding that it's not unusual for CUPE to invite groups it's worked with to join its contingent in the parade.

"We invite our community allies and partners to join us on that day," he says. "Often our members are directly involved in various community groups so there’s a logic to it in our minds.”

This year QuAIA has registered to march on its own. "We decided to register to avoid any ambiguity and get clarity on Pride's position, and to avoid putting other groups in an awkward position," says group spokesperson Corvin Russell.

Does clamping down on groups jumping into the Pride parade betray the protest aspect of the event?

"Absolutely," says sex rights activist and Spa Excess coowner Peter Bochove, "Nobody had to fill out their paperwork on Feb 6, 1981 [to protest the bathhouse raids]. They just showed up and away we went.

"When you don't allow people to join the Pride Parade you're no longer representing the community and that's too bad... It no longer is a community event, it's something that we're allowed to watch."

Longtime activist and AIDS Action Now cofounder Tim McCaskell, who defended QuAIA in a public letter to Pride in the wake of the Post article, says the reality is that Pride is no longer the small community event it once was.

"Trying to manage a crowd of a million people is a huge task," says McCaskell, "so unfortunately I'm afraid that the days of spontaneous jumping in are gone. There really are practical safety reasons at stake. I have marshalled enough demonstrations and rallies over the last 30 years to know that. Groups registering in advance doesn't seem to me to be a huge price to pay to make sure everyone gets home in one piece."

Sandilands, who came to Toronto from South Africa to take up the executive director position late last year, says she was surprised when she learned that groups had to register in Toronto's Pride Parade.

"It's an issue I've given some thought to myself because in other places marchers are allowed to just join the parade and walk in it and it may be something that we review in the future," she says. "I do think there's a lot to be said for allowing members of the public to just join the march.

"[But] now is not the time to change the rules on something that requires as much attention as a liability... It's three weeks away we're not going to change it now."

Also raising eyebrows is Pride's May 27 statement attempting to clarify the organization's position on political messaging in the Parade. The statement, available at Pridetoronto.com, distances both the organization and the event from its activist roots.

"Pride Toronto wishes to state publicly that it is a nonpartisan organization created to serve the LGBTTIQQ2S* community of Toronto in all its cultural, religious, ethnic and sexual diversity," it states. "The organization does not have any affiliations whatsoever to political entities or causes. It exists for the purpose of delivering the annual Pride festival, which is an informational, educational and cultural festival."

"Pride is a political event," responds Bochove. "It reminds the authorities every year that there are an awful lot of us and they shouldn't fuck with us."

"I think that Pride is always 'political' in the broadest sense in that the visibility of the queer community is still a political statement in a homophobic world," says McCaskell. "That said I would support Pride as an 'informational, educational and cultural festival.' In order to maintain its charitable status the Pride organizers cannot be seen to be taking political stands and that seems fair enough to me. Their job is to organize the festival. It is our job to ensure we put in progressive content. As long as no one is excluded we all benefit."

Sandilands says the position Pride is taking is that it's not political to be in favour of gay rights.

"It's not that we're not a political organization," she says. "We as an organization put on the festival. People are entitled to have their own political position at the festival. What we're working for is human rights for queer people all over the world. We are in favour of that.

"Just because the issue is fought in the political arena because it's the politicians who make the decision as to who's more equal than others doesn't make it a political, partisan viewpoint. Our mandate is human rights for queer people and we will work for it in every country in the world and if we have to work for it or fight for it in the political arena so be it we'll do it but that still doesn't mean we're taking any side other than that of the people."

UPDATED: 3:46pm, Jun 11 to clarify the circumstances of QuAIA's participation in the 2008 Pride Parade.


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Comments

Just so we're clear Israel isn't an Apartheid
This is a hate group as they use an analogy as if it were fact. Israel offers rights to all citizens Jewish or not. And yes, I'd like to see QuAIA members march in any other middle eastern country...oh wait ... you might risk being killed as not only is homosexuals persecuted but actually it is a crime still punishable by death (in Iran and several other countries).

Like Israel or not this little country comes under attack at a disproportionate amount....
great article on http://elphidelphi.blogspot.com/
Move on
The sad part of all this stuff is that Pride and it's organizers can't get over their victim fetishes and start living in a world where nobody cares that they're Gay or whatever. They seem to relish in being marginalized, and since being gay is no longer a reason for marginalization in Toronto, they look for other causes to roll into the Gay thing (this crap about Israeli occupation being a Gay issue is a case in point).

Toronto Gay Pride is no longer about Gay Liberation, and a million people (well, actually a lot, lot less than a million people, but who's counting?) don't come to the parade because it purports to fight for the rights of suppressed Palestinian Gays. Or anybody else, for that matter. Toronto Pride, like Amsterdam Pride, is now a celebration of life and the fact that there are countries in which we can live our lives as we want-- as soon as it ceases to be that it will fizzle and die. It’s time for the old guard to let go and allow a new generation of free GLBTTQQ2S (did I get that right?) to take the reins and celebrate everything we have to celebrate.

As veterans of the Canadian fight for gay rights know, the only way to break down the prejudice is to get out, on the street, in the line of fire and force change by changing attitudes in the community and the institutions that govern the community. Prancing down Church Street in Toronto’s Pride Parade and then sending a post card to the oppressed gay victims of Israeli Apartheid, is pretty pathetic, if you ask me. Perhaps, however, they can tweet each other.

And, as a final plea, spare us all the babble about free speech, insurance, safety concerns, bias, etc. Anybody with a room temperature (Fahrenheit) IQ knows what this is about. So either ‘fess up and take it like a (liberated) man and stand up for what you really think (as inane and destructive as it may be). The fact that there needs to be three times as many marshals as last year says it all.

I guess Toronto Pride, like so many o
Interesting...
Pride wants to exercise control over marchers registering ahead of time and it gets over-reported and mis-reported as censorship and 'de-politicization.' The Dyke March bans ALL men (except, I think, trans men) and there's nary a mention anywhere. Interesting! Integrity isn't a strong suit in this community. The Dyke March maintains criticism of the commercialization of Pride, all the while living of the avails of all that vile corporate sponsorship. The option is always tehre to do your own fundraising and maintaining purity; I guess that's too much work.
Homophobia exists everywhere
I don't know about that. I'd probably want to avoid all three, given that someone tried to bomb the Tel Aviv parade and it was only able to walk 500 metres last year before being broken up. But that's beside the point. It's simply a logical fallacy to say that opposing Israeli state policy means you endorse homophobia in Palestine. Queers aren't obligated to defend the human rights abuses of any country that has gay rights. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
No balanced point of view
I guess the saying "I disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it" applies to what I think about QuAiA. I hope QuAiA would defend B'nai Brith's right to speak.

To QuAiA: I am glad you enjoy the right to parade in Toronto. I will cheer the parade and remain silent when you pass me. Where would you rather parade as an out-gay/lesbian/queer person? Ramallah? Gaza City? Tel Aviv. Having spent plenty of time in all 3 cities, I'd take any Israeli place first.
Stop Israeli Apartheid, yes, but also
stop Islamist oppression of sexual minorities throughout the Middle East. Israel - despite its many flaws - doesn't execute people for being gay. The blindness and double standard of the Israel-haters here gobsmacks me. Does anyone in the left give a flying fuck about Iran, Saudi, Abu Dhabi and other states which KILL their citizens for homosexuality? If I was alone in a sea of nations which wanted my demise, I might be a little trigger happy as well. Not that that excuses their excesses. But then, why excuse the excesses of Hamas and Hezbollah on the basis of oppression and desperation? Cuts both ways...
congrats to pride!
congrats to pride for not caving into pressure from pro-apartheid organizations in the city. coming out against israeli apartheid is important as the queer community in palestine is asking for our support to end the systemic racial oppression they face at the hands of the israeli security apparatus.
Pride IS political and all shld be allowed to marc
No need for debate as the very essence of PRIDE is political so any LGBT group wishing to march should be able to no matter what the sensibilities. If I were in the so-called "banned" group (QuAiA) I'd join the parade anyway and let them throw me out. After all at Stonewall (upon which the Pride parade is modeled and timed to synchronize with its annivesary), drag queens and hustlers and others rioted against police for hours in order to protest and be heard. No one ever said Pride was anything but political--here and in NYC where I will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall protest this year. There shld be no "banned' groups. Period, full stop....
cheers..james dubro
A few points
1. Everyone take a chill pill.
2. Let QuAIA march.
3. If B'nai Brith wants to, let them march as well. Granted they never have in the past, and they probably won't want to offend their religious supporters by being seen with the gays.
4. No one has ever submitted a parade application and been rejected. Even the Conservative Party is allowed to march.
5. If you don't like having to register in advance, lobby to change that in Pride, earlier than one month before the parade. Even better, start your own parade with your own money and take on the work of applying for street closures and acquiring insurance for the event.
5. I don't know who Ken Cowan is, but Tim has been active in the community for decades on all kinds of human rights issues. Trying to defame him here isn't going to work because he has a track record that you can't compete with.
a lot of bull
Tim McCaskell pretends that Pride is too big to allow people to just jump in. Uh-huh. Then how come in Paris, France, where the parade is far longer and larger than in Toronto, there are absolutely NO barriers between those on the street and those on the sidewalk...you can jump in, move around etc etc. and there is absolutely NO problem.
THIS IS JUST A COVER FOR CONTROLLING WHO GeTS IN OR NOT!
Knowing Tim's political leanings (rabidly anti-Israel LONG before even the intifadas) I wonder how easy it would be for a group with a banner reading "Against Hamas Terrorism" to be accepted in the parade? Not bloody likely! Meanwhile, allowing supporters of Palestinians against Israel when Israel supports and allows gay pride but the Palestinians (especially Hamas or Hezbollah)would persecute gays given half a chance - it seems to me that the ideas of Gay Pride are being totally manipulated by the political left.
Too bad. There are other venues for this kind of protest - Gay Pride is certainly not one of them.

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