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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Toronto City Council wimps out on Pride funding issue - again

This weekend I had tapped out what I thought was a lovely little speech about the responsibility of the municipality not to fund a platform for the vapid hatemongers called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (al-Quaia)  that I was planning to deliver to the Executive Committee of the City of Toronto today . But thanks to a motion put forward by Ward 37 Councillor Michael Thompson that passed overwhelmingly, deliberations about the revised Anti-Discrimination Policy, which would have provided an avenue to address the conditions for Pride Toronto's 2012 funding, will be deferred until September .

Last year, the room was overflowing with so many people speaking about the issue, the meeting went late into the night despite the reduction of deputants' usual talking time from five to four minutes. Even though there were only a handful of people who had signed up to deliver a message this year, it's not surprising the Executive Committee avoided dealing with the contentious matter until after Pride was over. It is a highly contentious and controversial issue at the best of times, but a fight was certainly in the brewing this year.

In a compromise motion proposed by Councillor James Pasternak that that passed last week  27 to 7, rather than make funding to Pride conditional on the exclusion of the hate group al-Quaia, Toronto Council instead voted to condemn the use of the term Israeli Apartheid. (Councillor Thompson, who voted against the motion was allegedly told Councillor Pasternak he made a mistake and intended to support the motion - I have a call in to Councillor Thompson's office to clarify whether that is the case.)

Armed with that official condemnation, Councillor Pasternak had intended to show that the term Israeli Apartheid was hateful and violated the City's Anti-Discrimination Policy, something the revised policy itself did not address. If that was made clear by an amendment to the policy and If Pride were to include the group using the term, it would therefore violate its funding conditions.

But this year that would have engendered a huge fight, which would have been made all the more vicious following revelations first published on this blog and later picked up by the Toronto Sun, the person who was tasked with revising the policy had a clear conflict of interest. Uzma Shakir, the City's Manager of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights, has a long history of making anti-Israel pronouncements, going so far as to suggest that immigrants do not owe their full loyalty to Canada because of the government's stance towards Israel.

Council would have had to deal not only with the volatile issue of hardcore, radical Pride activists advocating for unfettered funding versus Jewish groups outraged that their tax dollars are being used to fund anti-Semitism. But on top of that, municipal politicians were blindsided with having to explain how a partisan ideologue evidently vehemently opposed to Israel was placed in a position of oversight of such a controversial matter in which she had already demonstrated bias.

In the end, the Executive Committee bought time to look into a matter that could have made everyone at the City Manager's office look like an idiot.

However as Pride funding has already been approved, the anti-Semitic hate group that has exists for the sole purpose of demonizing the Jewish state will be allowed to march in this year's Gay festival in Toronto.

Tremendous pressure will now be brought to bear on Pride's corporate sponsors who will be tarred as funders of Jew hate if they support an event featuring the hate group.

UPDATE: Gay Jewish group Kulanu files complaint with Toronto Pride over hate group's participation (h/t Scaramouche)

Kathy Shaidle on The Arena with Michael Coren:

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