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Straight Pride board member apologizes on behalf of gay community

'Everyone has the right to free speech and that includes dissent,' Casey Oraa

Pride Toronto board member Evan Dean. Credit: mytowncrier.ca

UPDATE 30 JUN – The board of directors of Pride Toronto submitted the letter below last night.

Dear Xtra Editor:

 
The Board of Pride Toronto objects to both the facts reported, and the implications made, in your story “Straight Pride Board member apologizes on behalf of gay community” (June 28, 2011).
 
First, we are certainly not “reacting with anger because Evan Dean went rogue”. Evan has been designated by the Board to meet with all city councillors on our behalf, and has done an exemplary job of changing many of their attitudes towards Pride and obtaining their support over the recent funding.
 
Evan has clarified to us that he did NOT apologize to Councillor Nunziata and her Executive Assistant over the remarks made by the public and my subsequent comment at the flag raising ceremony.  We will take his word on this.  The quotes from Francisco Alvarez and Roy Mitchell were taken prior to the Board receiving the report from Evan on this matter, and should not have been quoted in the context of the article.
 
Second, Evan’s sexuality is completely irrelevant, and your implication in the headline and the article that he has somehow betrayed the LGBTQ community is insulting and verging on heterophobic. This is beneath the usual journalistic standards of Xtra. Pride Toronto welcomes anyone who want to contribute to the LGBTQ community, including our allies, and this divisive reporting is unhelpful to everyone.
 
The real issue that should have been reported is the continued refusal of the Mayor to engage directly with Pride and the LGBTQ community, including his absence delivering the Pride Week proclamation to the public at Monday’s event.

Francisco Alvarez, Co-chair Pride Toronto Board of Directors.

 

28 JUNE  – Members of the Pride Toronto (PT) board are reacting with anger because Evan Dean went rogue, apologizing to Councillor Frances Nunziata after the audience heckled her at the city hall flag-raising June 27, Xtra has learned.

After the ceremony, Dean went inside city hall to have a one-on-one chat with Nunziata. Although the councillor was in a meeting at the time, Dean spoke with executive assistant Jennifer Cicchelli, instead.

“He expressed that he was sorry for what happened. He said, ‘Of course, Pride Toronto has no control over the behaviour of people who come to the event,’” she says. “He went on to say, ‘Pride Toronto is disappointed that the mayor was not there, but the way people acted was not indicative of how Pride Toronto feels.’ He asked that Councillor Nunziata meet with him after Pride.”

Dean is not a stranger to municipal politics, having run for city council in Ward 27 in 2010. He withdrew his name from the ballot before election day.

Later that afternoon, staff in Nunziata’s office caught PT co-chair Francisco Alvarez’s comments to CP24.

“[Nunziata’s comments at the event] are a little bit indicative of the attitude of some of the members of council. Here you are at our event, they’re proclaiming our week, and the mayor’s representative is inviting us to leave,” he told the TV station.

Alvarez’s comments contradict what Dean had said, Cicchelli says. So Nunziata called Dean directly, and Dean apologized again.

Here’s where the stories get a little muddied. Alvarez says Nunziata called Dean looking for an apology.

“Nunziata called Dean to ask for an apology for my attack on her,” Alvarez says. “It was a gay event to proclaim Pride Week. Asking people to leave was not a very good political move.”

“Evan didn’t consult with the board and [his apology] is not an official board position,” he says.

Nunziata says Dean apologized on behalf of the PT board, and he apologized for “that sort of behaviour” from the gay community.

“They should show me respect,” Nunziata says. “I can handle being heckled and bullied. It shows disrespect to the people there that don’t support that sort of behaviour… Ford wasn’t there. I was there; so let me read my proclamation. If you want to object you can, but that’s not the forum to do that.”

Dean, a straight board member, tells Xtra his apology was taken out of context. He says he has been trying to educate city councillors on the “importance that politics play in the queer rights movement.”

“My intention was never to apologize on behalf of anyone that was there,” Dean says. “I am not in a position to apologize for other people.”

Activist and member of Queer Ontario Casey Oraa expressed outrage. “I thought our allies were supposed to speak in support of our communities, not for our communities. I’m hugely disappointed that an ally would speak in opposition to our voices, rather than respect individualism. Everyone has the right to free speech, and that includes dissent.”

Fellow board member Roy Mitchell says Dean does not speak for him. “We have every right to be angry, and thank God for the ones that did cause a ruckus. I can understand our community being pissed off by what has been going down at city hall. We should too.”

During the rainbow flag-raising ceremony, several members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community jeered and booed Nunziata while she tried to read the proclamation. Many in the crowd were angry that Mayor Rob Ford seemingly snubbed the queer event.

Ford has been in the hot seat recently with the mainstream press after skipping the proclamation. But Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and other members of the queer community have invited him to several events over the last few months, and he has been a no-show at them all, including the Proud of Toronto event at city hall in May and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia at city hall with PFLAG Toronto.

Nunziata’s office has been flooded with apologies, staff say.

“The majority of people, some from the gay community, have been calling us and apologizing on behalf of the gay community, saying they too believe Nunziata’s comments were justified,” Cicchelli says. She refused to provide any names.