UPDATE JUNE 25, 11:35AM By Matt Mills – City councillor Giorgio Mammoliti will move that the City of Toronto yank its funding for Pride Toronto retroactively and refuse to fund Pride in the future, he announced today. City council meets next on July 6, two days after Pride Toronto's events conclude. Mayoral candidates Rob Ford and Rocco Rossi support Mammoliti's motion. From Mammoliti's notice of motion:
1. That City Council directs the City Clerk to advise the Pride organizers that the City of Toronto’s 2010 funding and support be revoked and returned retroactively to the City because Pride did not invoke the City of Toronto’s anti-discriminating policies by allowing Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to participate in this year’s Pride Parade.
2. The City of Toronto rejects all future applications for Pride for funding and support.
Xtra asked Mammoliti if he was prepared to move that the city finally determine clearly whether or not QuAIA's presence in the Pride parade violates the city's anti-discrimination policy. But he dodged the question twice, saying at one point that city staff told council that QuAIA's presence is a violation of the policy. Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, manager of diversity management for the City of Toronto, told Xtra subsequently that the city has made no determination about whether QuAIA violates the policy.
“It’s up to Pride to have policies and procedures in place,” says Ramkhalawansingh. “Whether QuAIA participates or not is a Pride decision, not a city decision.”
Mammoliti made the announcement at a press conference earlier today. Among those also on hand were Moshe Ronen of the Canada-Israel Committee, Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress, gay lawyer Martin Gladstone, Avi Benlolo of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rossi, Mammoliti and Ford.
Gladstone urged people to press Pride Toronto's sponsors in an effort to get Queers Against Israeli Apartheid pulled out of the parade.
Justine Apple, executive director of Kulanu.
Also at the press conference was Justine Apple, executive director of Kulanu. Kulanu is an association of Jewish gay and lesbian people that has also had a Pride parade contingent for years. Apple condemned the reversal of the ban but said her group would still be marching and encouraged members of the Jewish community to join her contingent. Apple also read aloud mayoral candidate George Smitherman's statment on the matter (read it below).
From left: Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewis Congress, Mark Freiman of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Avi Benlolo of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Martin Gladstone, Justine Apple of Kulanu, David Spiro of UJA federation, Moshe Ronen of the Canada Israel Committee, Rocco Rossi and Gerogio Mammoliti.
BY MARCUS MCCANN – As early Pride festivities get underway tonight at Woody’s on Church St, the reaction to Pride Toronto’s decision to reverse its ban on the term "Israeli apartheid" is gathering heat.
National Post favoured the ban, so it’s not surprising that it opposed the reversal. But it may have gone one step too far when it paired letters about PT’s choice with a heart-wrenching picture of the execution of two young gay men in Iran.
The Globe and Mail (getting more and more Post-like under new editor John Stackhouse) gave us Judith Timson’s “Gay pride shoots itself in the stiletto on 'Israeli apartheid' march.” Her piece seems more concerned with what straight people will think than how gay ones feel about their own march. Pride gave in to the gay lobby? Give me a break.
And then, of course, it’s an election year. Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi also condemned PT's principled stand against censorship, issuing a press release under the tourqued headline Rossi Assails Pride Reversal. The third-or-fourth place candidate has a big political machine, but so far has failed to get traction with voters. Perhaps it’s no surprise he’s using the overblown language of hate speech to describe Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).
Mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson agrees with Rossi, and Rob Ford is on board too. Ford — who never met a gay cause he wanted to fund —says Pride Toronto’s decision is “disgusting.” Forgive me if I disagree.
Xtra tried to get in touch with Giorgio Mammoliti, the city councillor and mayoral longshot who put forward a city motion to de-fund PT if QuAIA marched. Radio silence so far.
George Smitherman offered a bit of a seesaw statement:
"I have been a longstanding supporter of Pride – and all that it represents as a powerful symbol of unity, inclusiveness and diversity. I find it entirely objectionable that the parade is being hijacked and threatened by a sideshow that has nothing to do with Pride itself. Unfortunately there are still those in our city who would look for any reason to deny funding and support for Pride, and this only plays into their hands. I reject categorically the term 'Israeli Apartheid' – it is as odious a term as it is divisive. The unfortunate reality is the previous ban was not enforceable by a volunteer organization and the entire event was in jeopardy. Pride is too important an event to be hijacked. I will march in Pride – as I've done in each of the last 24 years – in solidarity with the LGBT community and in proud celebration of the progress Toronto's gay community has achieved."
Joe Pantalone applauded Pride Toronto on their announcement. You can read his statement here.
As well, there’s a press conference responding to the decision scheduled for this morning by a coalition called the Organized Jewish Community. Martin Gladstone, Kulanu and the Canadian Jewish Congress will be there. We’ll see what they say, but I’m guessing it won’t be congratulatory.
It’s an assault on freedom of expression and the gay community as a whole. Needless to say, PT could use a little love. Consider sending a note of support. Or, even better, write to the mayoral candidates, The Globe and the Post to tell them how you feel.
Over the last couple of days, Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands has acted graciously. As many have pointed out, it’s difficult to admit you were wrong. Yesterday, Sandilands offered Proud FM a brief institutional mea culpa.
“Maybe the decisions we’ve made in the past weren’t the right ones,” she said on the station’s drive-home show.
Again, Sandilands reiterated her effusive thanks to lawyer Doug Elliott, pastor Brent Hawkes and 519 executive director Maura Lawless for providing a way out of the wilderness.
Well, sort of. I’m definitely eager to give a toast to those who helped PT come to its decision. The folks at the centre of the free-speech backlash are too modest to say it themselves, but they — and the hordes of us behind them — are the ones who deserve our thanks.
One of my favourite progressives, Sherry Wolfe, put it this way:
“What we do as social justice activists will be decisive in terms of determining what policy is. And then it's these insiders that later on play this game of codifying it and making the language acceptable to people,” she told me last year.
So yes, we have Elliott, Hawkes and Lawless — and the muckamucks at PT— to thank, but not for solving the problem. Rather, we have them to thank for taking the outrage on the streets and “codifying it.”
The community solved the problem. They codified it.
A huge community of inidividuals did the work.
Really, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people we can thank for this decision. Some unsung heroes in this movement have been putting in 20, 30, 40 hours a week of volunteer work for a month.
Take, for example, Ray Helkio. He designed the “You belong (except you)” spoof ads that are floating around Facebook. A reluctant volunteer, he saw an injustice and made a contribution in his area of expertise and steadily took on more responsibilities as one long week spun into the next.
Helkio is an example of one who has more to do with PT’s reversal than Brent Hawkes.
And I mean, really? The folks who gave back their honours are so brave. Where was Hawkes, a former grand marshal, on that day? Where was Doug Elliott during the endless protest planning meetings? Oh yeah, he was actively crapping on the activism in his speech to the Law Society.
Happy Pride everyone! See you on the streets!