Archive for May, 2010

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Dr. Alan Li rejects appointment as Pride Toronto Grand Marshal

May 28, 2010

Today, Pride Toronto’s choice for grand marshal of the 2010 Pride Parade has refused his appointment, citing the organization’s censorship of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).

“I have been actively involved in many social justice movements locally and internationally for more than thirty years,” says Dr. Li, a co-founder of Gay Asians Toronto, Asian Community AIDS Services, the multicultural Coalition Against Homophobia, and the first openly gay president of the Chinese Canadian National Council. “I thus remember very clearly our community’s battles against censorship that attempted to invalidate our concerns, minimize our struggles and silence our voices.”

On May 25, Pride Toronto announced that it would censor the term “Israeli apartheid” from all Pride events this year, including the parade, dyke march and trans march. This followed extensive pressure from Israel lobbyists, sponsors of the festival, and City Hall, reacting to the participation of QuAIA in the parade for the past two years.

“Pride’s recent decision to ban the term “Israeli Apartheid” and thus prohibit the participation of the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from participating in Pride celebrations this year is a slap in the face to our history of diverse voices,” says Dr. Li. “Pride’s choice to take pre-emptive step to censor our own communities’ voices and concerns in response to political and corporate pressure shows a lack of backbone to stand up for principles of inclusiveness and anti-oppression.”

Dr. Li’s refusal of the grand marshal appointment comes a day after an open letter to Pride Toronto was published from the original founders of Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in 1981, denouncing Pride Toronto’s censorship.

“Solidarity with all struggles against oppression has been a crucial part of the history of Pride,” reads the letter.

For the full text of Dr. Alan Li’s letter to Pride Toronto, click here. (PDF)

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Gag gag, ooh la la!

May 28, 2010

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid members Alexis Mitchell and John Greyson produced this video of the Pride Toronto press conference for RabbleTV:

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Open Letter to Pride Toronto from founders of Pride in 1981

May 27, 2010

As founding members of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, and people involved in organizing the first Pride event in Toronto at the end of June in 1981, we stand totally opposed to the decision of the current Toronto Pride Committee to ban the use of “Israeli Apartheid” at Toronto Pride events. This banning of political speech is clearly an attempt to ban the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) and queer Palestine Solidarity supporters from the parade and from participation in a major event in our communities. This sets a very dangerous precedent for the exclusion of certain political perspectives within our movements and communities from Pride events. We call on the Pride committee to immediately rescind this banning and to instead encourage QuAIA’s participation in the pride parade.

We remind people of the political roots of Pride in the Stonewall rebellion against police repression in 1969 and that the Pride march in 1981 in Toronto grew out of our community resistance to the massive bath raids of that year. On the Pride march in 1981 about a thousand of us stopped in protest in front of 52 Division Police Station (which played a major part in the raids) and our resistance to the bath raids was rooted in solidarity with other communities (including the Black and South Asian communities) also facing police repression. Two of the initiating groups for Pride in 1981 — Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE) and Lesbians Against the Right (LAR) — organized Pride as part of more general organizing against the moral conservative right-wing. This included not only its anti-queer but also its anti-feminist, racist and anti-working class agendas.

We also remember in the 1980s that lesbian and gay activists around the world, including in Toronto in the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee, took up the struggle not only for lesbian and gay rights in South Africa but linked this to our opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white supremacy in South Africa. This global queer solidarity helps to account for how it was that constitutional protection for lesbians and gay men was first established in the new post-apartheid South Africa.

Solidarity with all struggles against oppression has been a crucial part of the history of Pride. To break this solidarity as the Pride Committee has now done not only refuses to recognize how queer people always live our lives in relation to race, class, gender, ability and other forms of oppression but also breaks our connections with the struggles of important allies who have assisted us in making the important gains that we have won.

Signers:

Katherine Arnup, founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Lesbians Against the Right and Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Hugh English, one of the first organizers of Toronto Pride, a former member of GLARE, and a queer in solidarity with struggles against oppression around the world.

Amy Gottlieb, member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Gary Kinsman, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, member of the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee.

Natalie Polonsky La Roche

Ian Lumsden, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee and member of Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Michael Riordon, co-host (with Lorna Weir) of the first Toronto Lesbian & Gay Pride Day, 1981; founding member of Bridges (between gay/lesbian & Latin American liberation movements); author of the forthcoming book, Our Way to Fight, on peace activists in Israel and Palestine.

Mariana Valverde

Lorna Weir, co-host (with Michael Riordon) of the first Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, founding member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Brian Woods, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, and founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee.

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Xtra: Protesters demand Pride Toronto reverse censorship decision

May 26, 2010
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Join QuAIA in defiance of Pride Toronto ban

May 24, 2010

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30 years of a censorship-free Pride in Toronto has come to an end

May 23, 2010

For the first time in its 30-year history, Pride Toronto has banned an LGBT community group from the parade. The board of directors voted on Friday to ban the words ‘Israeli Apartheid’ from any Pride events, including the Pride parade, dyke march, and trans march – directly targeting the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

This follows a year of intense pressure from Toronto City Hall (one of Pride’s main funders) and Israel lobbyists, who claim that criticisms of the Israeli government amount to hate and discrimination. By caving to their demands, Pride Toronto has not only silenced the voices of queer Palestinians and human rights activists —they have set a dangerous precedent for free expression in our community.

Send a message to Pride Toronto that ALL communities deserve to be heard in our Pride.

Call their offices to tell them no censorship at Toronto Pride:

Executive Director Tracey Sandilands: 416 927 7433 ext 222 tracey@pridetoronto.com
Director of Sponsorship & Grants Ryan Lester: 416 927 7433 ext 230 ryan@pridetoronto.com

Board members who voted to censor Queers Against Israeli Apartheid:
Margaret Ngai: margaret-ngai@pridetoronto.com
Genevieve D’Iorio: genevieve-diorio@pridetoronto.com
Mark Singh: mark-singh@pridetoronto.com
Daniel Knox: daniel-knox@pridetoronto.com

Sample Email

Dear Pride Toronto,

I am shocked by your reckless decision to censor free speech at Pride. This year is meant to celebrate 30 years of resistance and instead you have decided to make a mockery of our hard-won rights by banning an LGBT human rights group.

The ‘privilege’ to pick and choose who gets into the club is what denied us our rights for much too long.

My Pride is political! I know how I got here and I will not allow you to silence anyone. We are loud, proud and inclusive! That is what  makes our community strong and vibrant.

Sincerely,

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Will City Council follow Harper’s lead by cutting Pride funding?

May 10, 2010

MOTION TO CUT CITY FUNDING FOR PRIDE TORONTO TO BE DEBATED THIS WEEK

A motion submitted by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 – York West) will be debated at this weekʼs city council meeting, which will threaten city funding for Pride Toronto, North Americaʼs largest festival for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community.

Mammolitiʼs anti-gay voting record goes back to 1994 when, as an MPP, he spoke out against his own partyʼs same-sex spousal rights legislation in the Ontario Legislature. He put forward this weekʼs motion in response to the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in last yearʼs Pride parade.

The motion comes just days after the Harper Conservative government announced that it would no longer provide funds to the annual Pride Toronto festival through its tourism grants program.

“Mammoliti has never been a friend of the LGBT community, and this motion is just a desperate ploy for attention from a fringe mayoral candidate,” says Tim McCaskell, member of QuAIA.

The LGBT community will be watching to see whether city councillors follow Harperʼs lead on Pride funding or reject Mammolitiʼs anti-gay motion.

Councillor Mammoliti’s Motion