National Post: Pride Toronto gets grant despite apartheid controversy

National Post, June 8, 2012

Pride Toronto has secured $123,807 from the city for its 10-day festival, regardless of who marches in the annual parade.

The decision settles — for now — the perennial controversy around funding the major cultural event because of the presence of a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Last year, the city withheld funding until after the gay pride parade, and QuAIA did not participate. This year, council reaffirmed its recognition of Pride as a major event, while condemning the contentious phrase “Israeli Apartheid,” denounced by Jewish groups as toxic and inaccurate.

“Council took a risk and leap of faith,” said Councillor James Pasternak. “The funding was passed today based on a goodwill gesture that Pride’s dispute-resolution system will work, and that QuAIA will not march.”

If it does, deputy mayor Doug Holyday has already put Pride on notice that he will lead the charge next year to cut funding. Mayor Rob Ford was not present for the vote Thursday, but agrees “we shouldn’t be using” the term. “I’ve never been in favour of funding any parades. I think the private sector should be in there,” he said. Pride also gets about $300,000 in kind services from the city such as policing and clean up.

QuAIA says it intends to be part of the parade on July 1.

“They can condemn the name of our group, but that doesn’t take away what we stand for,” says Tony Souza, a member of QuAIA. “We will march, and we will march with our signs.”

Last year, the city manager concluded that the term “Israeli Apartheid” does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy. Council directed him to revise the policy, and the matter will be discussed at an executive meeting next week.

Pride officials are frustrated by the process. “We feel we’re not being treated the same way [as other cultural groups] when we have to go through these hoops year over year,” said Luka Amona, co-chair of the board of directors of Pride Toronto.

Jewish groups applauded council’s condemnation of the apartheid phrase. The motion moved by Councillor Josh Colle carried with a vote of 26 to 7. “I think it’s a wonderful step in the right direction,” said Justine Apple, executive director of Kulnau Toronto, a Jewish LGBT organization. “Now we have to move ahead and look ahead to the creation of a new city policy to prevent this from happening year after year,” said Howard English of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

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