Mayor says wait until parade’s over to vote on funding
(Written for Town Crier April 18.)
Mayor Rob Ford is taking a wait and see attitude before deciding if Pride Toronto should receive city funding this year.
For Ford, the funding issue hangs on whether the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participates in this year’s Pride festival.
If the organization doesn’t participate, then Ford said that Pride Toronto can still get a city grant of about $125,000.
“Last year council agreed if they don’t (participate), they (Pride) will get their money after the parade. That’s what we agreed on,” the mayor said at an April 15 media scrum. “If they (group) does march in the parade (Pride) won’t get their money.”
The city also provides in kind services for police security and clean-up worth around $250,000. The mayor did not know if those city services would be impacted if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid aka QuAIA participates in the parade.
QuAIA issued a statement April 15 announcing that it would not march in the parade, but would instead participate in activities outside the parade. It said now there will be no excuse not to fund Pride.
“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” stated Elle Flanders with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: fund Pride or have your real homophobic, right-wing agenda exposed.”
Ford he will believe the group won’t participate when he sees it. Pride Toronto originally banned the group from marching last year but then reversed its decision and allowed them to participate.
“Last time they said they weren’t (marching) and they did,” said Ford.
One of the ongoing issues is whether allowing QuAIA to participate that Pride Toronto contravened the city’s anti-discrimination policies.
“To date, the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid’ has not been found to violate either the Criminal Code or Human Rights Code (Ontario),” wrote city manager Joseph Pennachetti in a report going to the city’s Executive Committee on April 20. “City staff has therefore concluded that the participation of QuAIA in the Pride Parade based solely on the word ‘Israeli Apartheid’ does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy.”
Councillor James Pasternak has been outspoken about Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participating in the parade. After the city manager’s report came out, Pasternak sent out a press release on April 13 expressing his shock and dismay.
“QuAIA is advancing a preposterous analogy of the Israeli-Palestinian question,” he wrote. “The group is using the suffering under the old apartheid regime in South Africa to demonize the state of Israel and its supporters.”
“This shameful discourse — born out of ignorance and fuelled by intolerance — has caused great pain in many communities and has tarnished Toronto’s reputation.”
After the group decided April 15 not to participate, Pasternak released another press statement, “The morning after the parade will be the time to determine if QuAIA and Pride Parade have complied.”
The Pride week festivities include community events from June 24 to July 3 capping off with the main parade on July 4.
The Executive Committee will discuss the city manager’s report on the festival on April 20 and it will go to city council May 17–18.