Click here for this article as it appears on EYE WEEKLY’s official website. Originally published June 30, 2010.
This past year has been a controversial one for Pride, but the focus has been on something seemingly unrelated to LGBTTIQQ2S issues. Instead, the organizers have been grappling with free speech, namely, the phrase “Israeli Apartheid.” Here’s how everything has played out thus far; see if you can keep track of who’s on which side. (There might be a quiz later.)
May 23: Pride Grand Marshal El-Farouk Khaki, a Toronto lawyer and queer activist, introduces speakers at a Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) event at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. What follows is B’nai Brith Canada calling for disciplinary action for contravening the city’s anti-discrimination policy. Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands tells the National Post that Khaki agreed to no longer speak about Israel from a Pride perspective.
June 28: Khaki, QuAIA and other groups march in the parade without incident. Footage shot at the parade becomes the basis for Reclaiming Our Pride, a homemade film by Martin Gladstone, a Toronto lawyer and activist on queer and Israeli issues.
January: Pride conducts a series of focus groups to shape its future strategy toward community involvement and communications in the lead-up to WorldPride in 2014. Subsequent reports suggest third-party groups were agitating to persuade Pride to exclude QuAIA.
February 9: After having seen Reclaiming Our Pride, Ward 27 Councillor Kyle Rae writes to Sandilands saying the QuAIA’s participation in the 2009 parade was “completely out of keeping with the spirit and values of Pride Toronto.”
March 10: Pride issues terms and conditions for participating in the parade. Participants must have their messages and signage approved by Pride’s ethics committee prior to the event or face removal. The next day, a Facebook group called “Don’t Sanitize Pride: Free Expression Must Prevail” is started.
March 23: Pride drops the policy of vetting participants in advance, but their messaging policy remains in effect — meaning groups can still be banned for offensive phrases.
April 13: City officials meet with the Pride executive to discuss complying with the requirements of the City policies for a grant-funded event. Pride agrees to vet all applications, though not on whether to ban QuAIA or the term, “Israeli Apartheid.” The results of the meeting are sent to Kyle Rae.
April 18: Councillor and mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti puts forward a motion that would revoke Pride funding unless QuAIA withdrew from the parade.
May 25: Pride bans the term “Israeli Apartheid” from all Pride messaging. The official announcement says, despite the term’s presence in parades since 2007, the decision followed a year of “extensive lobbying.”
May 28: Dr. Alan Li rejects the honour of Grand Marshal. In the following days, Jane Farrow rejects her appointment as Honoured Dyke and Michelle Walker declines her community-service award. They all cite the importance of free speech.
May 29: An open letter from the founders of the 1981 Pride Parade calls on the Pride executive “to immediately rescind [the ban] and to instead encourage QuAIA’s participation in the Pride Parade.”
June 7: 2010 International Grand Marshals Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini refuse to march in the parade. The same day, more than 20 other past Pride honourees and a group called the “Refuseniks” march to Pride HQ to return their honours and present Pride with an award of shame.
June 23: Pride announces it has reversed its ban on the phrase “Israeli Apartheid.”
June 25: Martin Gladstone organizes a press conference denouncing Pride’s reversal. Mayoral candidates Rocco Rossi, Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford are in attendance. Mammoliti and Ford announce their plans for a motion to retroactively defund Pride.