Councillor Georgio Mammoliti says he will not move to defund Pride Toronto next week, as he had previously announced.
The news comes after Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) withdrew from Toronto's annual Pride parade, according to a press release issued April 15. Instead, QuAIA will hold its own event, without Pride Toronto (PT), sometime during Pride Week.
"Last year’s struggle was around censorship and our right to march in our community’s Pride parade,” says QuAIA spokesperson Tim McCaskell in the press release. “With the City report settling that debate, now is the time for us to move beyond the parade to build our community’s response to Israeli apartheid.”
On April 13, PT and QuAIA were exonerated in a city manager's report, which concluded that PT had not broken the city's anti-discrimination policy.
Earlier this week, Giorgio Mammoliti promised to strip the festival of funds. But on April 15, he said that QuAIA had "done the right thing."
"Because of what they've done, you won't see me move a motion to take the funds away," Mammoliti tells Xtra.
With this news, it appears that the festival's city funding is secure for 2011. Last year, PT received $123,807 from the city, plus roughly $300,000 in-kind services like policing and cleanup.
But Mammoliti stopped well short of endorsing PT funding in future years, saying that all programs would be reviewed this year in an effort to find $700 million in savings. Mammoliti's comments play into the tone of QuAIA's press release, which chides Mayor Rob Ford's administration for using QuAIA as an excuse to defund the festival.
“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” the release quotes QuAIA member Elle Flanders as saying. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: fund Pride or have your real homophobic, rightwing agenda exposed.”
In an interview with Xtra, Flanders says that Mammoliti will still be looking for ways to defund PT, even though with QuAIA's announcement, he's lost "the pretext" he was using this week.
"As usual, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth," says Flanders.
After the announcement, the Twitterverse lit up with comments, most of them thanking QuAIA for withdrawing. University of Toronto law professor Brenda Cossman called the move "brilliant strategy," while former fab editor (and Xtra contributor) Scott Dagostino characterized it as "a smart move, noble even."
"There's give and take in communities," says Flanders. "We think that the community has been generous to us, and it's time for us to be generous in return. When you're facing rightwing, homophobic governments, you've got to band together."
But for queer activist Ashleigh Ingle, who was active on the Pride file, the move is something of an ominous sign.
"It's a really sad day when the political climate of the city is in such a place that it will force a political organization out of the Pride parade," she says.
Gaybourhood Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam emphasizes that the 2012 budget will still be a tough slog. She's worried about cash for PT and Caribana, HIV/AIDS prevention and community groups.
QuAIA "might have been a convenient excuse, but now that that's been taken off the table, there's no reason not to carry on funding Pride," says Wong-Tam.
Another outspoken oppponent of PT funding during QuAIA's time as a participant, Councillor James Pasternak, says he now supports funding for the festival.
“I don’t have a problem with helping out cultural, civic festivals, whether they’re cultural festivals or parades,” Pasternak told the Toronto Star April 15.
In an interview with the National Post, Mammoliti remains bullish, saying that he "doesn't trust" QuAIA and wants to see a letter from Pride Toronto verifying that QuAIA is out. In his interview with Xtra earlier in the day, he indicated he wanted a letter from QuAIA saying they will not march.