Saturday, June 23, 2012

Toronto's Gay Pride Parade Celebrates Hate

Toronto, Canada is home to one of the world's largest parades designed to celebrate gay and lesbian rights. It's quite a wild party and it attracts quite an audience. It also receives funding (hundreds of thousands of dollars) from various levels of government as well as from corporate sponsors. 

Unfortunately a group known as Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA) has been allowed to hijack the parade and carry their hateful message slandering Israel as an apartheid state.

After years of conflict regarding Pride's policy of allowing QUAIA to participate, Pride's answer to us (really to their sponsors including our city and province) was to establish a Dispute resolution process (DRP) that would be objective and handle complaints formally.

That idea seemed to silence many of the critics and the funding continues again this year.

About a week ago a colleague emailed me a complaint form from Prides' committee as part of this process (DRP).

I filled it in and mailed it. I received confirmation from the chairman, a lawyer by the name of Mr. Douglas Elliot. I then went up north for the weekend. I was shocked to get a call from my daughter at home in Toronto who told me that a reporter had called asking to interview me about how I felt about my complaint and my personal contact information (name, telephone, address) being published in a popular gay magazine/website called Xtra. My daughter was in distress thinking that our house may be attacked, or our family may be harassed as a result of this. Of course this crossed my mind as well. When I returned home I saw the original website in Xtra that contained a scanned copy of my complaint form in entirety. There were 2 other complainants including the Jewish gay group Kulanu who were also published without their permission and thus retracted their complaints.

All the sponsors including all levels of government and citizens of Toronto must know this. The DRP is a farce designed to intimidate complainants. I read Mr. Elliot's article in Xtra where he arrogantly states that once a complaint is submitted (unless done anonymously through a lawyer), the complaint is public property and it can be posted on a billboard! He effectively told me that the respondent to my complaint, in this case QUAIA, received a copy of my complaint and they must have sent it on to Xtra magazine.

I suggested that Prides DRP was deeply flawed and if they were sincere in their attempts to resolve disputes, that they could forward the complaint but not the complainants contact information. It should operate like our by-laws. When a person complains about a neighbor to the by-law department, the officer will never divulge who originated the complaint, for obvious reasons.

As a Jew, Israel supporter and defender of those people that are discriminated against, whoever they are, I am adamant now more than ever that Pride should not get any funding from us. Israel is clearly not an apartheid state, it promotes freedom of choice for the gay community and the fact that it is only Israel that is accused of this from a multitude of countries throughout the world who have undeniable records of anti-gay policies including public lynching of gays, wreaks of good old anti-Semitism. If Pride wants to allow hateful, discriminatory groups like QUAIA to hijack their parade they should be allowed to do so but not at our expense.

I sent the above as an open letter to various government officials in Toronto and Ontario and to representatives of most of the corporate sponsors and so far I've barely received any responses.   

It's time we stopped sponsoring hatred!