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Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Council approves funding for Pride festival

Tags: Canada city council pride pride festival quaia Toronto
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Kulanu Toronto members march in the 2012 Pride Parade. [Kulanu Toronto photo]

The City of Toronto approved a $140,000 grant to fund the annual Pride festival at its June 11 meeting.

That’s about $16,000 more than the amount Pride Toronto received in 2012.

For several years, the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) has been at the centre of a debate that prompted the city to reconsider its funding for Pride, as long as QuAIA was allowed to march in the festival’s showcase parade.

That event will be held this year on June 30.

Council voted almost unanimously to fund Pride this year. Among the few dissenting voices was Jewish councillor David Shiner.

According to most legal experts, QuAIA’s message doesn’t violate the human rights or criminal codes, said Howard English, senior vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), greater Toronto region. However, pro-Israel activists call the term “Israeli Apartheid” a form of hate speech.

English said a new anti-discrimination policy was on the agenda at the June 11 meeting, but was deferred. He said the proposed policy is more “promising,” although he admitted it may not be enough to stop QuAIA from marching.

The policy includes a provision that says groups that receive cultural funding from the city must prohibit hate speech or discriminatory behaviour, or messaging “contrary to the city’s policy.”

Organizations that violate the provision would be forced to return grant money to the city.

The new anti-discrimination policy will be reviewed and debated at the next council meeting on July 16 and 17, and could affect Pride funding for the 2014 festival.

This week, Pride Toronto released the reasons for its decision last year to allow QuAIA to march. Despite complaints from pro-Israel groups that had sought to bar the group from marching, Pride decided that QuAIA’s message doesn’t violate Pride’s mission statement.

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