Toronto’s Gay Pride parade will exclude contentious group
Revellers make their way down Yonge Street during the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto Sunday, June 24, 2007. CP Members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid say they will challenge the decision
Globe and Mail Update Published on Saturday, May. 22, 2010 3:00AM EDT
Participants in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade this year won’t be able to march under the banner Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
Pride Toronto’s Board of Directors voted Friday to ban the term from all Pride-related events, Councillor Kyle Rae confirmed.
No one from Pride Toronto would comment Friday, although they said a news conference will be held Tuesday.
The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which has marched in Toronto’s annual Pride parade for the past several years, has angered people who feel the name is discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli.
The group, for its part, insists it’s none of those things, but merely critical of the policies of the state of Israel. Pride Toronto’s move is essentially censorship, they say.
Mr. Rae, a long-time champion of gay rights in the city and an opponent of the group’s participation in the parade, said he got an e-mail Friday afternoon from one of Pride Toronto’s board members, telling him “the Pride committee has voted to ban the use of the term Israeli apartheid at all Pride-related events.”
The city has expressed concern over the apartheid name and the consternation it has caused; a motion put forward by councillor and mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti – going before executive committee June 14 – would pull Pride Toronto’s funding if the group didn’t “invoke the City of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policies” and reject Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’s application to participate in this year’s parade.
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid member Elle Flanders said the group hadn’t even applied yet to be a part of this year’s event, and they are “still in shock.”
“We’re reeling; we’re disappointed. … We are not in violation of any anti-discrimination policies,” she said, adding that they intend to contest Pride Toronto’s decision.
“We’re very sensitive to issues around anti-Semitism and in no way do we believe that talking about Israel’s state policy is anti-Semitic. … I think this has been raised to a level of hysteria.”
Lawyer Martin Gladstone, who has fought for years to have Queers Against Israeli Apartheid excluded from the Pride parade, said he’s “ecstatic” at the decision.
“It’s long overdue. It’s fantastic,” he said, adding that many people he knows avoided Pride because this group made them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
“The inclusion of these groups that have nothing to do with gay rights, that had divisive and hateful messaging, was horrible. … You can’t arbitrarily exclude a large part of our gay community with messaging that’s false and divisive.”
It’s not clear whether the group would be able to participate under a different name.
Mr. Rae said he has no problem with a group supportive of gay Palestinians. But “it’s my personal opinion that the Pride event is about fighting homophobia, and the group was not doing that. What they were doing is bringing in another issue into a queer community event.”
The association of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories with South Africa’s apartheid system has long been an extremely contentious one, condemned by B’nai Brith and used by people ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the groups behind Israel Apartheid Week.
In a statement at the Herzeliya Conference earlier this year, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak used the term himself.
“If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state,” he said, “and if they don't, it is an apartheid state.”
Last year, the Ontario legislature symbolically condemned the term “Israeli apartheid,” saying it “serves to incite hatred.”