Despite having their permit to march revoked by Pride Toronto staff on the eve of WorldPride, a Toronto men’s rights group marched in the June 29 parade, with a group that says they were unaware of the controversy.
The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) wrote a series of tweets June 29, pictured above, implying that it had been welcomed to march in the parade with the Sherbourne Health Centre. The tweets also show that members handed out CAFE buttons along the length of the route.
CAFE, which has been affiliated with several controversial men’s rights events and speakers, had its permit to march in the Pride parade revoked June 24 when concerns were raised about its mandate possibly contravening the spirit of the WorldPride event.
But Sherbourne Health Centre staff say they had no prior knowledge of CAFE’s affiliation with the men’s rights movement.
Graeme Imrie, the director of human resources and corporate communications for the Sherbourne Health Centre, tells Xtra over email that the clinic issued an open invitation for any friends, family members of clinic staff, volunteers or clients to march in the parade. A client brought the CAFE contingent as the Sherbourne Health Centre was organizing its marchers on Sherbourne Street, he says.
According to both Imrie and CAFE, the group originally appeared wearing CAFE T-shirts but were asked to remove them and march wearing Sherbourne Health Centre shirts instead.
Imrie says the group members were not clear about why their permit had been revoked and described CAFE as a group that provides education on men’s and boy’s issues. “Had we had time to conduct any background research, we would have politely declined their request to join us,” he says.
Sherbourne Health Centre representatives also immediately asked CAFE members to stop handing out their materials along the parade route, according to Imrie.
“Sherbourne unequivocally does not endorse or support CAFE,” he says.
Representatives from CAFE dispute Sherbourne Health Centre’s version of events. Group members repeatedly refused Xtra’s requests for a phone interview, but Denise Fong, the group’s outreach director, sent an email statement saying that CAFE members were wearing CAFE T-shirts when they requested to march in the parade with the Sherbourne Health Centre and that they properly identified themselves to Imrie.
“I am also absolutely floored that anyone would have a problem with individual members of CAFE walking in support of another important organization,” she says, adding that CAFE members care about the values of Pride.
Fong later responded to some of Xtra’s further inquiries over email. She claims that CAFE members showed Imrie the buttons they planned to distribute ahead of time. “The issue that arose much later was that SHC did not purchase the appropriate permit to distribute materials,” Fong says. “As soon as this was made clear to us we immeadiately stopped distributing buttons, but we kept wearing [them].”