Thursday, June 24, 2010

Proud of Pride

Pride Toronto has reversed themselves. Good for them.

Pride Toronto’s board has reversed its decision to ban the phrase “Queers against Israeli apartheid” from this year’s events, opening the door to the participation of the controversial group the ban targeted.

The decision came on the heels of a sizeable public outcry in which more than 20 prominent community honorees give back their Pride accolades in protest over “censorship.”

In lieu of the ban, Pride will now require each participant to read, sign and abide by the City of Toronto’s Declaration of a Non-Discrimination Policy.

When asked if Pride was backtracking, executive director Tracey Sandilands said she viewed the decision as a constructive step forward.

“We have reached the understanding that it is not our job to implement the city’s policies onto our participants,” she said, adding that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will be able to participate in Pride events so long as they sign and abide by the city’s policy.

“I think this has been an incredible victory,” said QuAIA member Elle Flanders. “I believe in this community and I’m glad to see that Pride has put its faith back in the community.”

Fellow QuAIA member Tim McCaskell said his group would be “more than happy” to sign the non-discrimination policy.

“We’ve never had any problems with the city policy and we haven’t done anything to contravene city policy,” he said.

As Montreal Simon points out, it will then be fascinating to see if anyone tries to have Queers Against Israeli Apartheid charged with violating the policy they sign - and therefore have to make the case in a court of law that the word 'Apartheid' is a discriminatory slur rather than a legitimate example of protected free speech, justifiable on the facts alone.

It's interesting that the climbdown seems to have already begun; one of the prime figures behind the pressure brought against the Parade has indicated "...we don't want to involve ourselves in a confrontation with the gay community."

Or they don't think the attempt to de-legitimize the Apartheid comparison would pass a judicial smell test and they don't want a damaging legal precedent. They'd rather just continue darkly smearing Israel's critics with the discriminatory slurs of antisemitism and bigotry without ever having to defend the accusations.

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