News
3 min

Organizers scramble to revamp Pride Toronto’s human rights events

Human Rights Committee member hopes international grand marshals will return to the fold

Pride’s Human Rights Committee has been left scrambling to revamp their programming for the week, in the wake of Pride Toronto’s decision to reverse its ban on the term “Israeli Apartheid.” Several events that were initially cancelled are now either back on or revamped, while others could not be salvaged at this late stage.

“We had this amazing event that we had to cancel, because we were angry with Pride,” says Jane Walsh, a member of the Pride Toronto Human Rights Committee. The event, a day of human rights talks followed by a film screening and after-party, was originally scheduled for June 28 and was to be the week’s flagship human rights event.

This event has been replaced with a panel discussion called Sex Inter/National at Isabel Bader Theatre, which was organized in partnership with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. The discussion will feature Colin Robinson, the co-founder of Caribbean Pride, and Haneen Maikey, the director of Palestinian queer group Al-Qaws. The event will be moderated by Andil Gosine, York University’s head of sexual diversity studies.

“QuAIA didn’t ask for a boycott, and it was kind of a fine balance to figure out what we were going to keep and what we were going to cancel,” she says. The decision to revamp today’s programming was made in hopes of putting pressure on Pride to reconsider, says Walsh.

“We can’t be talking about international human rights in this way with censorship of QuAIA [at the same time],” she says.

In addition to her role with the Human Rights Committee, Walsh is one of several members of the Pride Coalition for Free Speech, a group of people who formed to protest the “Israeli Apartheid” ban. The group scrambled to put together a series of events under the heading Alterna Pride, which include June 28’s Sex Inter/National and the independent dyke march Take Back the Dyke on Saturday, July 3.

The goal, says Walsh, was to stand firm against the Pride board’s censorship decision while still maintaining the human rights program. Walsh and Doug Kerr, her colleague on the Human Rights Committee and also a member of the Pride Coalition for Free Speech, have had to juggle these objectives.

“Our human rights program was looking at queers globally and we said we would not be ignoring what was happening in Palestine,” says Walsh. “But we were in unique positions to influence the board, and I have made the choice to be angry with Pride and to try to change it.”

A serious blow was dealt to the festival’s human rights programming though with the withdrawal of this year’s international grand marshals — Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini. They were set to lead the international human rights contingent at the front of the parade. They were also scheduled to take part in several events throughout the week, including the now-revamped June 28 flagship event.

Now that Pride has lifted the “Israeli Apartheid” ban, Walsh is hopeful that both Careaga and Sabbadini will return to the fold. “We have nonrefundable [plane] tickets for both of them, but we don’t have a final yes on either of them,” says Walsh.

Whether or not the international grand marshals make it to Toronto, Walsh says that there will be an international human rights contingent in Saturday’s parade. “Towards the front of the parade will be the Latin American community who were going to be marching with Gloria Careaga. The plan right now is to have members of the Coalition for Free Speech, and all of the people who gave back their awards or who have been honoured in the past to come to the front and march under the 30th anniversary banner.”

“I would really love for this to be a year that we celebrate the re-politicization of Pride,” Walsh says.

The committee’s main task this week will be getting the word out via Facebook and other channels about what cancelled events are back on, and re-engaging the community members who have withdrawn in protest over the last few weeks.

Alterna Pride events:

Sex Inter/National (Take 2)
Monday, June 28, 7pm
Isabel Bader Theatre
93 Charles St West

See the full list of Alterna Pride events at pridefreespeech.com

Official Pride Toronto events:

Panel discussion: International queer human rights
Tuesday, June 29, 6pm
Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen St West

See the full list of official Pride Toronto events at pridetoronto.com