Rick Telfer, the activist who started the Don't Sanitize Pride Facebook group (which has grown to more than 1,300 members), has created another online tool to oppose Pride Toronto's new terms and conditions for parade participants.
Participants in the 2009 Toronto Pride Parade. (Jenna Wakani photo)
"Those who have been lobbying for censorship in Pride have already been targeting Pride's sponsors," Telfer said in a March 18 message to members of the Don't Sanitize Pride Facebook group. "It is now imperative that Pride's sponsors hear from the rest of us -- i.e., the wider community and the majority."
As a next step, Telfer has created a web-based email system which allows users to quickly send the following message to Pride sponsors:
Dear Sponsor of Toronto Pride,
I am writing to ask that you oppose the new censorship policy being imposed on participants in this year's Pride Parade and Dyke March.
Since last year, a small but persistent group of pro-censorship lobbyists have been pressuring Pride Toronto Inc. to limit freedom of expression for some groups. My understanding is that you may have been contacted by pro-censorship lobbyists who are now directing their efforts towards sponsors and financers of Pride. As such, I believe it is important for you to hear from the rest of us: We are the overwhelming majority within the community who are strongly opposed to any regulation of free expression beyond that which is already defined as hate and prohibited by the Criminal Code of Canada.
On March 10, Pride Toronto Inc. announced new terms and conditions for Pride participants that will require pre-approval of all signs and messaging. It is a requirement that has never before existed in the histories of the Pride Parade and Dyke March. A few days later, Pride Toronto Inc. announced an impending "free expression policy." Preventing "hate" is the rationale for the new policies. However, Pride participants have always been expected to comply with hate speech laws, and that expectation was already covered by existing Pride policies. In short, hate was already prohibited -- as it should be. We in the community are therefore unconvinced that this year's new terms and conditions are really intended to prohibit hate. The vagueness of the new policies almost certainly leaves them open to misuse and abuse -- i.e., to censorship.
I am therefore asking you, as a sponsor of Toronto Pride, to listen to the overwhelming majority and to both uphold and celebrate freedom of expression within our Pride Parade and Dyke March. In just one week, over 1,300 people joined a Facebook group to oppose the new censorship policy. The opposition continues to grow. In our community, the right to freedom of expression is deeply valued and vigorously defended. I will therefore be paying close attention to ensure that you, as a sponsor, support a Pride that upholds freedom of expression.
Tell Toronto Pride's Sponsors: No Censorship.
Read more on Xtra.ca:
- FREE free expression guidelines for Pride Toronto
- Artists to Pride Toronto: Free expression should be offensive
- Pride Toronto developing "free expression" policy
- All signs must be vetted with us first: Pride Toronto