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Big bullies?

Pride Toronto bristles at criticism

Toronto Pride is being accused of trying to silence criticism over some of its more unpopular changes this year.

Patricia Koine, the founder of Gays Lesbians Of African Descent (GLAD) says she was asked to stop publicly criticizing Pride after being quoted in an Xtra story expressing concern about Pride’s new parade clean-up fees for marchers; since the publication of the article the fees have been reclassified as voluntary donations.

“Pride Toronto really did aggressively follow me up on how I was quoted,” says Koine. “In my opinion, I gave my comments and I don’t have to justify them. But I’m very sure they will continue to use those tactics in the future.”

But GLAD isn’t the only organization Pride is accused of bullying. Youth activist Ryan Hinds says Supporting Our Youth (SOY) has also faced pressure after discussions on the group’s listserv about corporate sponsorship of the Pride youth contingent. Hinds led the opposition to the sponsorship, which was eventually dropped.

“I know there was some pressure on SOY to apologize to Pride Toronto because the original e-mail campaign was posted by someone — not me — on the SOY listserv,” says Hinds.

Clare Nobbs, the program coordinator for SOY, says the debate itself is an important one.

“We had a staff meeting this week about what we would say if people asked [about the debate over the corporate sponsorship of the Pride youth contingent], and we recognize that there are different opinions in the community.

“Just as SOY is accountable to the community we serve, so is Pride Toronto accountable and ACT [AIDS Committee Of Toronto] and other groups. We must all be accountable and that sometimes means there’s going to be debate.”

Hinds himself was critical of Pride in comments he made while hosting the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line’s Youth Awards on Jun 7.

“My closing address was about the importance of activism. I said, ‘If you’re scared about the corporatization and commercialization of Pride, act up. If you’re scared about paying to be in the parade, then act up.'”

Hinds says that after he wrapped up the event, Pride cochair David Anderson “rushed the microphone” to try to talk about how harmful infighting was.

“Nobody really stopped what they were doing to listen,” says Hinds. “The few people who did booed him.”

Hinds says he was lectured by Pride Toronto’s executive director Fatima Amarshi after his speech.

Anderson did not respond to questions about the incident. Amarshi says she respects Hinds’ opinions and passion.