In a recent debate hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory gave Toronto citizens a vivid glimpse of what to expect (if he were to be elected Mayor) when he expressed his opposition to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. In response to the controversy surrounding QuAIA, an organization that believes Israel maintains an apartheid-like occupation of Palestinian territory, Tory stated that he would cut all city funding allocated to Pride if QuAIA were granted approval for participation in the parade.

As you might be wondering, why does Tory think that the particular ideology of one organization provides a reasonable basis to cut funding to one of the city’s largest festivals? According to Tory, QuAIA’s mandate and rhetoric is inconsistent with the City of Toronto Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy. According to city manager Joe Pennachetti and Toronto lawyer Anna Kinastowski, however, QuAIA’s rhetoric, specifically the use of the phrase “Israeli apartheid”, does not amount to hate speech nor does such a phrase transgress the Ontario Human Rights Code or the aforementioned city’s human rights policy.

It is interesting to note, however, that despite all of the recent (and past) controversy and opposition surrounding QuAIA, this organization has maintained its permit to march in the Pride Parade over the past several years and it appears that QuAIA will retain this permit for the next Pride Parade as well. One would think that with all the negative press and accusations directed at QuAIA, Pride Toronto would have revoked its permit to march in the Pride Parade in previous years, or, at the very least, for this upcoming year. After all, Pride Toronto allows for the possibility of revoking an organization’s permit to march in the parade without any substantive grounds for doing so, as evidenced by Pride Toronto’s revocation of CAFE’s permit to march in the World Pride Parade of 2014.

Now, it is not the subject of this article to express any opposition or concern for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, for, if it were up to me, I too would allow for this organization to march in the parade on free speech grounds. It is the subject of this article, however, to raise attention to the fact that Pride Toronto’s decision to revoke CAFE’s permit to march in the Word Pride Parade of 2014 was merely based on some concern that was raised about the organization and the claim that the work of CAFE “may contravene the spirit of the mission, vision, and values or Pride Toronto and WorldPride.” Yet, when asked to elaborate on the reasons as to why the work of CAFE is in contravention with the spirit of the mission, vision, and values of Pride Toronto and WorldPride, Kevin Beaulieu, Executive Director of Pride Toronto, failed to provide any substantive reasoning behind this decision.

This leads me to wonder whether or not Pride Toronto is exercising a double standard where any organization that opposes the actions of Israel is consistent with the values of Pride, but where any organization that may oppose feminist ideology is inconsistent with the values of Pride. For the record, the accusation that CAFE is an anti-feminist and misogynist organization is not evenly remotely accurate. From its inception, CAFE has been an organization that has, as its mandate, the goal of achieving gender equality. As such, CAFE would never participate in any conduct that would intentionally serve to be a detriment to the well-being of any gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, etc.

Yet, despite this proven commitment to equality, all that was required to revoke CAFE’s permit to march in the parade were the false accusations that CAFE, as part of its mandate, attempted to “downplay the serious social, economic and political marginalization that women in this society face every day,” which could not be further from the truth. Not only was Pride Toronto happy to respond to this unsupported allegation, they were also prepared to knowingly contravene their own Dispute Resolution Process, designed to guarantee consistent and non-arbitrary handling of these types of situations. The Dispute Resolution Process requires that complaints made against a specific group must be submitted by June 4th and that the decision to exclude a group from participation in the parade must be made by June 21st. Ironically enough, it was Pride Toronto that voluntarily violated their own policies in order to exclude an organization from participation in the parade, as neither of these dates were met for the filing of the complaint and the decision to exclude participation in the parade.

It seems odd to me that people will work at length to determine whether or not there are any reasonable grounds to argue that QuAIA’s actions are in violation of human rights policy and hate speech and to defend the actions of such an organization while, at the same time, completely ignoring the fact that a “men’s issues” group devoted to achieving equality for all has been ejected from participating in a festival that is supposedly devoted to equality, diversity, and inclusion. I absolutely support QuAIA’s participation in the Pride Parade and I do not believe that their actions are in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code or the City of Toronto Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy. However, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the same support for CAFE is not present.

Kevin Spykerman
Public Policy and Advocacy Committee Associate
Canadian Association for Equality