Pride Festival still in Mammoliti’s crosshairs despite city staff declining to call “Israeli Apartheid” hate speech

Pride Festival still in Mammoliti’s crosshairs despite city staff declining to call “Israeli Apartheid” hate speech

Protesters at Pride 2009 (Image: Neal Jennings)

One of the actions the city has undertaken in relation to the annual Pride Festival is to ask its staff to determine if the use of the words “Israeli Apartheid” constitutes hate speech. The term was at the centre of controversy last year when the group Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) was banned and then un-banned from the Pride Toronto Parade. Yesterday, the city staff concluded that, under criminal law and provincial human rights rules, QuAIA is not engaging in hate speech. Case closed? Hardly. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and others on council are now threatening to pull not only Pride Toronto’s grant, but also its city-provided police and cleanup crews, if QuAIA is allowed to march. “We don’t support hate groups, that’s our view. If they want to march in the parade, then we won’t fund them,” said councillor Doug Ford, according to the Post.

From the Toronto Sun:

“Myself and what I would consider most of this city would not want this city spending tax dollars on racial slurs, comments and hate messaging and that’s what is being discussed in my opinion and I think that we all have to recognize that tax dollars shouldn’t be going towards hatred,” Mammoliti told reporters.

The vow from the chairman of the city’s community development and recreation committee came despite the fact City of Toronto officials ruled Wednesday the term “Israeli Apartheid” doesn’t violate Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy.

“The language in the report will be challenged by myself,” Mammoliti said. “There is a large group of people in the city, as you know, that do not want this group to participate in the parade and I support that group.”

It’s not all gloom from the Ford side of council, though. The Globe quotes deputy mayor Doug Holyday saying, “If they want to go out and have a good time and celebrate their gayness, that’s up to them.”

But here’s the thing: city council already made Pride’s funding conditional on QuAIA not participating last year—according to last year’s motion, Pride doesn’t get a dime until the festival is over, and even then only if it doesn’t violate the city’s discrimination policy. The problem for the Ford caucus is that staff said yesterday that QuAIA doesn’t break the city’s rules.

The Informer spoke briefly with Francisco Alvarez, spokesperson for Pride Toronto, to confirm a somewhat important fact: at this point, nobody has actually registered to be in Pride for 2011, so we can’t say for certain that QuAIA will even march this year. Assuming it does, it’s sure to be put through Pride’s new dispute resolution mechanism—meaning it’s possible that Torontonians won’t even know if QuAIA is going to be in the 2011 parade, which is slated for July 3, until June. Mammoliti’s motion could go before council as early as May 17.

Alvarez says he hopes the city will hold off at least until the dispute resolution system can get through its inevitable work. “This is the process that our community recommended to us, it will be binding.…it may be satisfactory to other groups, or not, but we hope the city understands that Pride delivers many other benefits.”

When Kristyn Wong-Tam stood up to defend Pride, she was ruled out of order and not allowed to finish her statement. If that’s any indication, it doesn’t sound to us like Mammoliti and his allies (including the Ford brothers) are going to be patient.

• Pride faces fund cuts over ‘Israeli Apartheid’ [Toronto Sun]
• No Pride funding if ‘Israeli Apartheid’ group marches: Holyday [CBC]
City report finds ‘Israeli Apartheid’ does not promote hatred [Globe and Mail]