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Province’s Pride Toronto grant sparks hate speech bill

Little hope for Tory Peter Shurman's Bill 171

Peter Shurman, a Progressive Conservative MPP, introduced a private member’s bill March 28 that would add tough penalties to groups that accept provincial money and use it to fund hate speech.
In an interview with Xtra, Shurman says it’s no coincidence that he introduced the motion shortly after the provincial Liberals awarded a $400,000 grant to Pride Toronto.
Pride Toronto was embroiled in a controversy last year after it twice tried to force Queers Against Israeli Apartheid out of the parade. Ultimately, organizers backed down in the face of sustained backlash from free-speech advocates.
Shurman is the politician behind a 2010 resolution at Queen’s Park that condemned universities for hosting Israeli Apartheid Week events on their campuses.
“I’ve been working on this one for six months, and it flows from my Israeli Apartheid Week resolution of a year ago,” Shurman tells Xtra. “To take it to the next step, I thought I would introduce legislation that says, ‘Hey, if you speak hate, it’s going to be a problem.’”
The bill has little hope of passing before the Ontario legislature rises for the summer. It won’t resume sitting until after the Oct 6 provincial election.

Shurman says he hasn’t sought support from fellow PC MPPs yet. But there’s an outside chance that the bill could at least debated, he says, since the legislature sets aside time for MPPs to bring forward private member’s business. Although Shurman has already used up all of his own time, he says he might be able to convince one of his colleagues to cede time to him.

Shurman admits that, even if the bill were to pass, Pride Toronto might not be affected.
“At this point, nobody at a university campus or at the Pride parade has been accused, much less found guilty, of hate speech. But there’s a question in my mind, which is why I pursued this, which is how close to the boundary Israeli Apartheid Week or QuAIA comes to hate speech,” he says.
Under Shurman’s bill, he says, universities that host an event with hate speech could be forced to return all the money they get from the province and pay a steep fine.
The bill raises interesting questions and could leave organizations financially vulnerable to events that occur under their hospices. For instance, could a high school be required to return provincial money if there were a gaybashing on school property? Shurman declined to comment on “hypotheticals.”