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Toronto threatens Pride march funding over apartheid comparison

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Update: As can be expected Muzzlewatch has been all over this story. Check out their great in-depth report here.

The Toronto Star reports that the city of Toronto is considering withdrawing funding from the Toronto Pride march next year if the organization Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is allowed to march this year. The city evidently received complaints after last year’s parade and is looking into whether the term "Israeli apartheid" violates the city’s anti-discrimination policy. From the article:

"We have no legal grounds to ban the word apartheid," [Pride executive director Tracey] Sandilands said. "While I understand there are a lot of people who don’t like the wording, there’s got to be more than just the name of the organization (to justify taking action)."

But, she said, the city has told them that Toronto Pride had contravened its anti-discrimination policy on the grounds that "those words make certain participants feel uncomfortable."

All funding issues aside, Pride has no wish to violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy, she said. "That would be crazy."

Asked how Pride could both avoid banning QuAIA and satisfy the policy, given that even its name makes some uncomfortable, she said: "It’s a good question, and it’s not one I’m sure we have an answer for as yet."

The campaigh against QuAIA seems to be led by lawyer Martin Gladstone, who previously advocated for an "ethics committee" to review parade signs in an attempt to disqualify the group. From the article:

Gladstone produced and circulated a film, called Reclaiming Our Pride, which shows one marcher wearing a shirt with a crossed-out swastika and features fuzzy audio of others chanting words Gladstone interprets as "fist by fist, blow by blow, apartheid state has got to go."

QuAIA says the chant was actually "brick by brick, wall by wall, Israeli apartheid is going to fall."

The group also says the marcher sporting the crossed-out swastika was not a QuAIA member.

QuAIA member Elle Flanders is quotes as saying the city’s stance is "shameful." She continues:

"They’re trying to compare it to hate speech, and I find it deeply offensive, as somebody who’s been fighting human rights battles for a really long time, to hear that criticism of the state of Israel is somehow hate speech. No way," said Flanders, one of several Jewish QuAIA members.

"I’m a big Jew-lover. And my Judaism taught me to stand up for what is right. This has nothing to do with anything other than criticism of Israel … Political difference need not be censored."

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