City Staff to Toronto Councillors: Don’t Ban “Israeli Apartheid”

April 22, 2013
Report advises City Council not to ban the phrase from city-funded events

April 22, 2013 Toronto City of Toronto staff, directed by right-wing councillors on Council’s Executive Committee to advise on how to ban the phrase “Israeli apartheid” from Toronto’s Pride parade, returned with a defiant response: Don’t do it.

In a nine-page report delivered last week, city staff told councillors that the presence of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid at the annual LGBT festival “has not been found to be in violation of the City’s grants policy or guidelines, corporate anti-discrimination policies, provincial human rights legislation or the Criminal Code (hate provisions).”

“The law is clear to everyone except a handful of right-wing councillors: you can’t ban the phrase ‘Israeli apartheid’,” said Tim McCaskell of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “We have advice from lawyers, and now city staff, all telling councillors that they must allow free expression at the Pride parade.”

The Executive Committee will vote tomorrow, Tuesday, April 23, whether to accept the staff report. If the recommendations are rejected, they will still go to the full council on May 4 for a vote.

Several other organizations have also expressed their concern on this issue:

CANADIAN CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSOCIATION: “The City currently provides funding grants to Pride, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Toronto International Film Festival…. How will you handle the next demand to defund the AGO or TIFF because a particular exhibit or film highlighting human rights violations was offensive to those whose country was targeted?”

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: “As a public institution dedicated to the freedom of artistic expression, we are committed to this fundamental element of the Canadian Charter of Rights. We are committed to create opportunities for individuals to share and exchange their viewpoints in an environment of mutual respect. We consider freedom of expression to be an essential element of our mandate.”

PEN CANADA: “PEN believes that the City of Toronto and its residents are better served when all are allowed to express their viewpoints freely.”

TORONTO’S MAJOR CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS: “As public institutions dedicated to artistic expression, we consider freedom of expression to be an essential element of our mandate.”

Kevin Garland, National Ballet of Canada

Denise Herrera-Jackson, Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival

Michele Maheux, Toronto International Film Festival

Alexandra Montgomery, Gardiner Museum

Alexander Neef, Canadian Opera Company

Janice Price, Luminato

Matthew Teitelbaum, Art Gallery of Ontario

Grant Troop, National Ballet School of Canada

Andrew Shaw, Toronto Symphony Orchestra

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For more information, please contact quaia.toronto@gmail.com