May 26, 2011
Toronto rules for anti-Israel group in Gay Pride parade flap
A Toronto committee voted that the participation of an anti-Israel group in the city’s annual Gay Pride parade does not violate anti-discrimination rules.
After months of debate, Toronto’s executive committee voted unanimously May 24 to back a report by the city manager, which ruled that the term “Israeli apartheid” does not violate Toronto’s anti-discrimination policies, and that public funding for the parade should not be contingent on the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
The controversy has been brewing since last summer, when some City Council members joined Jewish officials to question whether the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in the annual Pride festival should warrant the revocation of city funding for the event.
Last year, Pride received a $123,807 city grant and $245,000 worth of services, such as litter cleanup and police services. Municipal support amounts to about one quarter of the festival’s budget.
In April, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid promised not to participate in this year’s festivities. But some City Council members called that pledge insufficient.
Funding for this summer’s parade will be determined after the event, council member Giorgio Mammoliti told the media following the executive committee meeting.
“QAIA better stay away,” Mammoliti was quoted as saying in Toronto’s gay newspaper, Xtra. “If they think they can do what they want at the expense of the taxpayer, they’re wrong.”
Mammoliti added, “This councillor will defend the Jewish community, and I’ll do it in an aggressive way.”
Len Rudner of the Canadian Jewish Congress said he disagrees with the city manager’s report.
“In Canada it is possible to be anti-Semitic and homophobic and yet not break the law,” Rudner told the Toronto Sun. “The question should not be whether such statements are legal or not but whether they accord with the values, in this case, of the City of Toronto.”
But if Toronto wants to wait until after the parade to allocate funding, he said, “that’s certainly within their rights.”
“Our concern has always been with the parade, Rudner said. “We would like the city to be able to emphasize the fact that the messages of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and calling Israel an apartheid state have no place in the Pride parade.”