Afer unsuccessfully running for Parliament twice last year human rights activist and immigration lawyer El-Farouk Khaki won the Apr 2 election to become the grand marshal of this year’s Toronto Pride Parade.
Khaki, who ran in the downtown riding of Toronto Centre as the federal NDP candidate in both a by-election and last year’s general election, won the Pride vote after more than 500 ballots were cast at a public general meeting in Jarvis Collegiate’s cafeteria.
“It’s not just about tolerance, but about acceptance, “Khaki said in his speech prior to the vote. “It’s about being equal partners in Canadian society, regardless of what we are.”
Khaki was up against Ken Popert — longtime activist and president of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra — and Anji Dimitriou and Jane Currie, who made headlines last year when they were attacked outside their children’s school in Oshawa. Dimitriou and Currie received more nominations than any other nominee — 32 out of a total of 71 nominations.
Many in the standing-room-only crowd erupted in a chant of “Elfie, Elfie, Elfie” — Khaki’s nickname — when Pride cochair Mark Singh announced that Khaki had won the vote count.
After the vote Khaki, who was born in Tanzania, praised Toronto for “setting the pace for a new worldview” as a role model on multiculturalism. “We have to realize that we are really privileged here and we need to be vigilant about what we have.”
Other winners include the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) for the Pride Parade’s honoured group, social activist and musician Faith Nolan as honoured dyke and Toronto Roller Derby as the Dyke March’s honoured group.
Nolan — a Halifax native of mixed African, Mi’kmaq and Irish heritage — was up against activist Wicca Cloutier for the honoured dyke title. In place of a speech Nolan performed a self-penned song that had the crowd clapping
and a few singing along.
“I’m looking forward to marching with the unions, two-spirited people, others in the No One Is Illegal movement and so many others in order to reflect the diversity of our communities as much as possible,” said Nolan after the win.
The honoured group category saw the largest slate of candidates. Joining ACT were nominees Heterosexuals
for Same-Sex Equality, the Out and Out Club, Toronto the Amazon’s Motorcycle Club and the Toronto Bisexual Network.
John Maxwell, ACT’s director of special projects, spoke on ACT’s behalf at the meeting. “[ACT] can’t stop, won’t stop until we live in a world without AIDS,” Maxwell said in the speech, referencing Pride Toronto’s 2009 theme, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.
The Toronto Roller Derby was the only nominee for the Dyke March’s honoured group. In a speech prior to the vote Natasha Jesenak, known in the league as Nasher the Smasher, talked about how “the Roller Derby community
is a very accepting community.” She and league mates also used the speech to promote an upcoming tournament for queer derby competitors called the Clam Slam.
At the Apr 2 meeting Pride Toronto also announced that Ugandan activist Victor Juliet Mukasa was named international
grand marshal. According to a Pride Toronto release Mukasa was forced to flee Uganda after police illegally raided her home in 2005 and confiscated documents related to human rights organizing. Mukasa recently returned to Uganda and is waging a legal battle with the government over the invasiveness of the police raid.