Earlier this week, I wrote about pro-Israel lobbyists threatening corporate and government funding for Toronto’s gay pride unless the festival banned a pro-Palestinian contingent from the parade. On May 27, the National Post erroneously reported that Pride Toronto had banned the “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” contingent. In fact, no such decision had been made, and Pride Toronto issued a public clarification the next day to say that no groups had been banned.
The premier corporate sponsor of Pride also disputed the claim made in the B’nai Brith newspaper that they had asked for the contingent to be banned. “We know that political issues may arise during Pride,” said Gregory Harrison of TD Bank Financial Group. He said they have no problem with any group’s presence, as long as they don’t violate hate laws.
The tactic of trying to censor the group appears to have backfired for pro-Israel lobbyists. In response to the rumour that the pro-Palestinian contingent would be banned from the parade, outrage poured in from across the queer community.
Tim McCaskell, one of the organisers of the 1981 protests against the bathhouse raids, penned an open letter to the Pride Committee, urging them to allow the contingent to march. Community activist Peter Bochove was quoted in local queer newspaper Xtra, “When you don’t allow people to join the Pride parade you’re no longer representing the community.”
B’nai Brith’s sudden foray into queer community politics also provoked backlash among those who questioned its track record on LGBT rights. In her Toronto Star column yesterday, Antonia Zerbisias pointed out that B’nai Brith has allied itself with prominent leaders of the anti-gay movement, Charles McVety and John Hagee.
Regardless of B’nai Brith’s legitimacy in the queer community, it is still a powerful lobby organisation. That is why some are still cautious about calling this a victory.
“Pride Toronto has stood its ground in favour of free speech, and they should be congratulated,” said Faraz Vahid Shahidi of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “But we know that supporters of apartheid won’t give up that easily. They will keep approaching sponsors trying to exert whatever pressure they can upon the Pride Committee.”
Vahid Shahidi wants members of the queer community to show their support for Pride Toronto as it will likely face increasing threats to its funding over the coming weeks.
The best way to show your support?
“Join us in the parade!” he said. “Let’s show them that Pride is political.”
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