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QuAIA members meet with Toronto's city managers

QuAIA members meet with Toronto's city managers

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Pennachetti waiting for CAP recommendations before reporting to council
City staff will likely wait for the findings of the Pride Community Advisory Panel (CAP) before telling city council whether or not the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) violates the city's anti-discrimination policy.

A July 6 city council motion to defund Pride Toronto directs city managers to determine whether QuAIA's presence in the Toronto Pride parade violates the policy. If the city managers determine that it does, Pride Toronto would be ineligible for city funding. There is nothing in Canadian jurisprudence to suggest that criticism of government, foreign or domestic, is discriminatory. But many in the Jewish community believe that the phrase "Israeli apartheid" is anti-Semitic.

QuAIA members, including Elle Flanders and Tim McCaskell, met with city manager Joseph Pennachetti on Nov 29 in a bid to convince Pennachetti that QuAIA does not violate the city's policy.

“This is a decision that councillors have punted over to city staff,” says Flanders. “And no one wants to make this decision because no laws have been broken.”

McCaskell says the meeting was “interesting,” adding that there were four members of QuAIA there. City staff included Pennachetti, executive director of culture Rita Davies, city lawyer Ward Earle and Mike Williams, general manager of economic development and culture.

McCaskell says Pennachetti talked about the process the city plans to follow in making its determination. Still, says McCaskell, the city is reluctant to give specifics. That may not be entirely surprising, considering the recent municipal election.

“It appears they are waiting to hear from the Community Advisory Panel before they make any recommendations to council as to whether or not we violate city policy,” says McCaskell. “That’s odd because the purpose of the Community Advisory Panel is not to determine that.”

Xtra could not reach Pennachetti for comment, but he clarified his position in an email to McCaskell.

“I did indicate that we want to understand the Pride Community Advisory Panel's results before finalizing our conclusions and recommendations, as it only makes sense to be aware of all perspectives and consultations before approaching executive committee,” Pennachetti wrote. “In no way, however, are we saying that the Advisory Panel findings will be the ‘basis’ for our recommendations.”

At the ongoing CAP sessions, Flanders has been quick to remind people that city staff will use the information collected in that process. She says the city's scrutiny of Pride is unheard of for any other city-funded cultural festival or event. The CAP recommendations are expected in late January or early February.

“People who come to the CAP sessions are completely unaware of what happened last year [surrounding QuAIA],” Flanders told Xtra following the Dec 6 CAP session at the University of Toronto. “The panel needs to be aware of this and talk about it. People at the panels need to talk about this. That’s my insistence in bringing it up at these meetings.”

McCaskell says Pennachetti plans to report to the city executive committee, likely in April. Pride is in early July.

“I think they will be hard-pressed to find we’ve broken any city policy,” McCaskell says. “Anyone with an understanding of equity issues would understand that. But who knows, I think [city staff] are scared of council, scared of the new administration, and they see themselves as squeezed.

“I just hope that the Community Advisory Panel takes this off their hands somehow, so they don’t have to make a decision they know they can’t uphold," he adds. "That’s just my analysis, but that’s what looks like what’s going on.”
McCaskell points out that the city's cultural funding policy does not exclude political expression. Cultural expression almost always reflects political expression, he notes. The city does not attempt to censor political expression during any other cultural events.

“This idea that [organizations] that accept public funds somehow means there can be public influence is crazy,” Flanders says. “I have no say in the Santa Claus parade, nor do I want it. I don’t think it’s my place, but they take public money. “Pride puts way more money into the city pockets than it takes out.”

“The obvious difference between Luminato and this is Pride is a queer festival,” says McCaskell. “Do they go through all the art pieces at Nuit Blanche to ensure there’s nothing that is critical of Israel? No, that would be ridiculous.”

So now we wait. McCaskell says nothing will happen until after the panel sessions wrap up and reports and recommendations are drafted.

“A major focus right now for QuAIA is to ensure we are well-represented at the panel meetings,” he says. “Then we just wait and see. There’s not much we can do until we see how the city reacts to the recommendations, and what the city manager brings to city council.”

Read more - Xtra's coverage of the Community Advisory Panels



Comments

Pride by U2
I was at my first Pride parade last year. Wow. Love was in the air. Took a picture with a young jewish girl who saw my QAIA shirt and said..whats on your shirt? Palestine! Cool! It has a big heart on it and it says we all belong. God bless her. But interestingly..my shirt didnt say anything about Palestine. Just fight the Ban Fight the Occupation. Words.. Powerful Words with Undeniable Connotations. Queers in Toronto adamant about a homeland for Palestinians! Three generations going on four living as refugees and prisoners in their native land. But QAIA marched with little fanfare for the last three years. Why the big fuss now? Is it the words used? Of course it is...it targets Israel. But after 100 years of ethnic strife in Palestine is there any debate about the occupation and the existing apartheid? I may not be Queer not that I havent thought about it...but...its minorities helping minorities. Its a civil rights campaign. The Palestinians will never join the family of nations while the baby boomer generation is alive...So it is important that this civil rights campaign is nurtured and that it grows because the youth must realize Canadas destiny is the Human Rights Charter and Equality.
A Queer issue
We shouldnt have to run to the (mainly straight) city for help to protect our gay pride from that Hate group. The gay pride committee should have the balls to keep them away on their own.
I support the QuAIA
I say down with Israel
Also Eric you live in a Aparthied State
So why are you saying Israel is when some even in this country has even say Canada could be a Apartheid State. The Globe and Mail run a series of stories on Canada's Apartheid November 2001. (http://ht.ly/3rszc) and the QuAIA will not fight Apartheid here in Canada? This is what I mean when our Native leaders have describe the Indian Act as Apartheid. Also sweetie in Canada we did have Racial segregation in the 1950s when South Africa model their Apartheid System and in Israel they do not have Racial segregation and that is what the word Apartheid was in South Africa. So face it sweetie, you can not handle the truth either but just tell all the leftists lies when it comes to Israel and Apartheid. When you Eric live in an Apartheid State.
@Sav
You seem to forget that Jim has the right to freedom of Speech and Expression and you seem to be censoring him on almost everything. He is right on a few things here such as you or anyone does not speak for us as a collective.
Its only freedom of Speech!
To many leftists are showing heir white hoods and I wonder they can never defend free speech from anyone but themselves.
Eric, just copy and pasting from Anti Israel
blogs to make your point. You can not handle the truth but is just spreading Propaganda. South Africa used Canada's Indian Act as a model for Apartheid and the Indian Act is still in place. From this Act most of Canada's native do feel they are second class citizens and conditions on most reverses are conditions that are found in most third World countries. Also many Native groups have compared conditions on reserves to Apartheid in South Africa when dealing with the Federal Government under Liberal and Conservative governments . Wow! names please on these MK's and political party (was he Arab MK from the United Arab list? and he was elected into the Knesset?) Also, some of your arguments are typical of most Anti- Israel Blogs that tells it users how to talk on comment forums and Hi jack them. So far two of your links come from this blog and even what to say came from this blog as well. Also, Wikipedia is not a source, I bet it was just a quick edit to make your point.
The real question
The real question is this: who represents the gay community and gets to organize things like Pride? Answer: left-wing activists like Matt, Sav, Elle, Tim and so on. They have hijacked the gay community and are turning it into a playground for their own political ends. And if the playground gets messed up and defunded, too bad, because their views are more important than the gay community. If Jews feel excluded, tough titties. If mainstream gays are annoyed, they don't care. You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, right? And if any gay person dares to speak out against this group in public, they turn on them like the borg and do everything in their power to convey the impression that it is they who speak for the community. Sav, Elle, Tim, Matt, all of you -- pleas stop this nonsense for the good of the gay community. There's more at stake than your cheesy politics.
The real question
The real question is this: who represents the gay community and gets to organize things like Pride? Answer: left-wing activists like Matt, Sav, Elle, Tim and so on. They have hijacked the gay community and are turning it into a playground for their own political ends. And if the playground gets messed up and defunded, too bad, because their views are more important than the gay community. If Jews feel excluded, tough titties. If mainstream gays are annoyed, they don't care. You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, right?
Face the truth
Peter From: > did Israel copy Canada's Indian Act like South Africa did to create Apartheid? Yes, indeed. Does that make you proud? Should the model be emulated around the world? Peter: > There is no apartheid in Israel. According to members of the Knesset and even some Jewish Israelis, there is. An MK who recently toured Canada said Israel has 25 laws that discriminate against non-Jews in Israel. They include subjects like who can own land, and who can marry whom (does the latter carry any resonance here?). Queers Against Islamic Atrocities? Sure, but let's draw attention to the regimes kept out of that spotlight in North America, such as Saudi Arabia (which buys a lot of U.S. bonds). It's easy to join the bandwagon against Iran (which should be criticized for its human rights abuses), but less common to criticize friends of Washington. Re QuAIA, I'm not sure why anyone thinks drawing attention to oppression and denial of rights is damaging to Pride. Is human liberation even possible if it is restricted to one issue?

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