|Raquel Perez Andrade, ILGA|
|Raquel Perez Andrade, ILGA|
For those who are in support of QuAIA (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid) and opposing censorship of content and with freedom of expression, there is an action being prepared either by a protest or by a position paper supported by ILGA International.
Daniel DaleStaff Reporter
The activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will attempt to march in the July 4 Pride Toronto parade despite a Pride ban on the use of the phrase “Israeli apartheid,” setting up a potential confrontation with festival organizers on the day of the event.
“I don’t think that a suggestion that they don’t like our message should keep us out of Pride. So there is an intention to march, and we will find the message that works in that march and we will be there. We need our voice to be heard,” said Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) spokeswoman Elle Flanders.
Flanders declined to discuss the specifics of QuAIA’s plans. Though Pride executive director Tracey Sandilands said that QuAIA would be welcomed if it marched under a name that excluded “apartheid,” such as “Queers in Favour of a Free Palestine,” Flanders said QuAIA would not consider such a change.
Flanders made her comments after an unusual outdoor news conference Tuesday morning on the lawn outside the Dundonald St. house that serves as Pride’s office. As Pride officials spoke from a microphone on the front porch, about 100 QuAIA members and supporters surrounded the iron fence that enclosed the lawn, holding pieces of paper that read “Free Speech” and chanting “shame” and “resign.”
Pride co-chair Genevieve D’Iorio said the board voted to ban “Israeli apartheid” because the long-running controversy around its use had put the festival “in jeopardy.”
“To not have a celebration is unacceptable and would be detrimental to the experience of millions and to the existence of this organization. As we celebrate 30 years of Pride in 2010, this will not be the year we see our festival cancelled because of any one specific message,” she said.
Asked to explain how the controversy jeopardized the existence of the festival, Sandilands pointed to a council motion tabled by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti that proposed to withdraw city “funding and support” from Pride if QuAIA was permitted to participate.
Sandilands said the loss of the city’s support would mean the loss of permission to close streets and hold the parade. In addition, D’Iorio said, the passage of Mammoliti’s motion would threaten some $500,000 in funding that could not be obtained without the city’s endorsement. Pride’s received $2.6 million in total funding last year.
Flanders scoffed at the argument that the motion was a threat to Pride’s existence. She said the motion was unlikely to pass, especially now that council has referred it to the city’s executive committee.
Flanders also questioned D’Iorio’s assertion that the controversy had jeopardized key sponsorships. D’Iorio said sponsors had expressed “concern” but that none had threatened to pull funding.
Sandilands said that Pride had lost $200,000 to $300,000 in potential new sponsorships over the controversy. She said it had also lost former participants, including business and non-political nonprofits, who said QuAIA’s participation made them uncomfortable.
D’Iorio said would-be Pride marchers who violated the ban could be removed from the parade. If that was not possible, she said, groups or individuals could be barred from future festivities.
Martin Gladstone, the gay and Jewish lawyer who lobbied intensively against QuAIA, and the Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada praised Pride’s decision. Gladstone, however, said he would “wait and see” before pronouncing the battle over; he said QuAIA’s refusal to abide by the decision “just shows contempt for Pride and contempt for our whole community.”
The Pride board voted 4-3 to approve the ban. D’Iorio, interim co-chair Margaret Ngai, Mark Singh, and Daniel Knox voted in favour, while Gaya Arasaratnam, Helen Kennedy, and Francisco Alvarez voted against.
Previous co-chair Jim Cullen resigned soon before the vote. D’Iorio said he did so for personal reasons.