The annual attack on the Toronto Pride Parade has been reanimated once again.
In the last few years, the Pride Toronto committee has experienced a backlash from certain councilors, particularly around the inclusion in the parade of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA)—a grassroots organization in solidarity with queers in Palestine and worldwide Palestine solidarity movements. Despite the fact that discrimination on the grounds of political affiliation is prohibited in city policy, there are still some on council seeking to ignore and override these grounds.
Specifically, there was a motion to direct Pride funding (which is an Arts application) towards the Economic Development Committee. Councilor James Pasternak is one of the members sitting on the committee and he has suggested offering Pride an ironically titled "diversity bonus" in addition to their funding if they were to decide to ban QuAIA from the parade. Although Pride Toronto and its allies are not backing down at this time on the basis of free speech, if for some reason it did a dangerous precedent would be set, making it easier to silence any groups Toronto City Council deems to be "too political" in nature by threatening to cut their funding directly or, as in this case, by creating an incentive for communities to police their own members.
Despite the long-term but dynamic shifting of Pride from its historical roots as a political statement to a chance for corporations to advertise, target coveted demographics, sell products and services and make piles of money, there are still groups such as QuAIA which use the parade as a platform to shed light on their continuing struggles for human rights. Any restriction from council regarding QuAIA poses a threat to many of the other groups that also are not corporately sponsored or conservatively endorsed by council. The city evidently has few qualms with filling its coffers with the millions of dollars generated by Pride tourism, while giving less than a quarter of a million in the last few years to ensure its continued existence. Aside from being simply unsustainable, this is blatantly discriminatory.
Ultimately, what is getting lost in the conversation at times is the very real occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state and how this is affecting not just LGBT people and their allies in Palestine but all people in the region and beyond. The muzzling of QuAIA is part of a much larger effort to pinkwash Israel, which includes Israel’s newest campaign promoting LGBT tourism, hoping for sympathy in addition to lots of money from tourists in "queer accepting" countries. This of course highlights one of the many important reasons that QuAIA's right to march in the parade is so important: to expose the myth that Israel is a "safe haven" for LGBT people, to highlight its oppression of Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs, and to challenge Canadian complicity.
June 11 will be council's day to make a decision regarding QuAIA's participation in the parade and Pride's funding in general. We need to support QuAIA--as part of repoliticizing Pride, solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, and challenging colonialism both abroad and at home.
If you like this article, register now for Marxism 2013: Revolution In Our Time, a weekend-long conference of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "The fight for trans liberation", "From Cairo to Jerusalem: Palestine and the Arab Spring" and "Socialism and indigenous sovereignty."