City councillor Kyle Rae pressured Pride Toronto (PT) to prevent Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from marching in the 2010 parade, according to documents obtained by Xtra. In a letter from Rae to Pride Toronto dated Feb 9, Rae called QuAIA “out of keeping with the spirit and values of Pride Toronto.”
“I would encourage the Board to review the parade entrance requirements to ensure that Pride’s mission, vision and values are reflected in the contingent’s participation,” he writes in the letter.
Pride Toronto did just that, issuing a press release on March 10 saying that participants would be required to reflect Pride’s themes in its messaging. That announcement sparked outrage in the queer community and was retracted two weeks later.
In a second piece of correspondence dated March 29, Rae defends his position and threatens that the City of Toronto could take further action.
“The City of Toronto must ascertain if the City’s policies concerning anti-discrimination are compromised by QuAIA’s rhetoric and messaging,” Rae wrote.
Rae did not respond to requests from Xtra for an interview or clarification.
From: Councillor Rae
Date: Monday, March 29, 2010
Thank you for your email. I am not surprised in hearing from you regarding the current debate surrounding QuAIA and their participation in the Pride Parade. I’ve attached the letter that I sent to Pride Toronto in February with my comments on the issue.
Also, I’d like to provide the following points of clarification:
Firstly, I was not interviewed by the Sun regarding this issue; instead, my comments were purloined by Sue Ann Levy for use in her article.
Secondly, Mr. Gladstone’s video is an example of “vanity filmmaking” as it presents a specific point of view without consideration of other perspectives. I believe that the purpose and participation of the QuAIA contingent was incongruous with Pride’s mission, vision and values. I dare say that other groups may well fall into this same concern; however the focus is currently on QuAIA. I also recognize that many members of QuAIA are Jewish, a fact which Mr. Gladstone omits from his ‘documentary.’ I hope you understand that my letter to Pride raises the point that I believe the queer communities need to recalibrate Pride with a renewed focus on queer issues, both locally and across the globe.
No doubt my personal opinion on the appropriateness of using Pride as a vehicle for this platform disappoints you. Were it an issue of choosing to picket the Israeli consulate, I would defend the right to do so. However, Pride is not the place for each and every global grievance to be raised. It is the equality rights of queers here and around the world that should be our focus.
Lastly, the City of Toronto must ascertain if the City’s policies concerning anti-discrimination are compromised by QuAIA’s rhetoric and messaging. Clearly some feel that the need to provide a safe and welcoming environment is not being met. In this context, the Ontario legislature unanimously passed resolution #93 on February 25, 2010, stating: “that in the opinion of this House, the term Israeli Apartheid Week is condemned as it serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and the use of the word ‘apartheid’ in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Let me be clear, criticism and debate of government policies, whichever state we choose, is fair game. If it were criticism of anti-gay legislation we were discussing, there would be no issue; however we are not faced with that perspective. Many would say that the debate is truncated by the use of the term ‘apartheid.’
I recognize the apprehension about any form of censorship, but I do believe there should be mechanisms in place that allows Pride Toronto to keep the focus of the parade on the celebration of Pride and global human rights affecting queer communities.
Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale)