In early 2010 it was clear that Pride Toronto (PT) had completely lost touch with its founding constituents of lesbian and gay people. Something had to give, and the turning point came on June 7.
Before the sun rose on Toronto that day, Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini, the 2010 Toronto Pride International Grand Marshals, told the world they would not be in the parade. They didn’t stay away for fear of controversy or because they were embarrassed by the gay people protesting against PT. They stayed away because of “the ban on the expression ‘Israeli apartheid’ by the PT board of directors.”
Later that same morning, more than 20 community leaders — former PT honoured dykes, grand marshals and award winners — dumped their PT honours in protest. That evening hundreds more community leaders gathered at the 519 Church Street Community Centre to express their anger and solidarity and to formulate plans to repossess one of their cornerstone community organizations.
They wanted their Pride organization back, they wanted the cranks who had taken it walked to the door, and they were not prepared to be shushed by numbing double talk or the condescension of lumbering procedural bureaucracy. They ultimately prevailed, and it was a beautiful thing to witness.
The 232-page report and recommendations to PT by the Community Advisory Panel is positively dripping with that spirit: a rich and unmistakable agenda to secure Pride for, by and about queer people. The compilation of the report and the work of those who contributed to it are impressive achievements. Some of the language in the document is a bit loaded and revisionist, but the recommendations themselves are comprehensive, mostly clear-eyed and well-reasoned.
But conspicuously, CAP doesn’t make a recommendation about the exclusion of QuAIA, or any other community group, from the 2011 parade. Instead it proposes the formation of a dispute-resolution apparatus. It means more time in limbo for PT, on this matter at least. And, of course, dithering, stalling and evasion on that determination were at the heart of the issue last year.
If handled well, the recommended approach may nevertheless prove wise. It buys time for PT to implement many other necessary changes, it specifies next steps, it prescribes more transparency and accountability, and it returns the destiny and legacy of the organization to the hands of Toronto’s gay people.
Still, at some point this year PT is going to have to make a determination about QuAIA. If it does so early, the organization may be distracted from its rebuilding work but have the matter concluded long before the festival; if it waits until June, it might avoid a lengthy controversy only to leave PT in exactly the same position it was in 2010.
The nuts and bolts of the dispute-resolution process are going to be key to the outcome. That process will need to be completely trustworthy and transparent if it is to be effective. Any shadow of obfuscation cast on its credibility could easily undo much of the other good work PT will do in the coming months. The greatest mistake it could make is to call for any group of gay and lesbian human rights activists to be silenced or otherwise marginalized.
PT’s problems are not insurmountable. It may even turn out to be surprising how easily they are overcome. For now, it appears the organization has declared a renewed fealty to its communities. It has turned a corner and deserves the support of its communities.