Reading the news this week regarding Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’s participation in the Toronto Pride Parade, a single question kept coming to mind: would I be too pragmatic to suggest that QuAIA should withdraw from the parade to avoid the looming political storm?
Turns out I never needed to publicly ask that question, as this morning the group put out a news release indicating that they would not march:
“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” QuAIA said in the news release. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: fund Pride or have your real homophobic, right-wing agenda exposed.”
I am not a member of the Queer community or the Jewish community. (I’m boring.) I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on his subject because of all the sensitivities and politics behind it. But I will offer this: I don’t believe anyone can ever be called racist or otherwise intolerant for condemning the perceived actions of a government. They can, on the other hand, be called wrong.
That’s an important distinction, especially when it comes to barring a group from participating in an event.
That said, because of this years-deep controversy QuAIA has likely received a hundred times more attention than they would have otherwise as a smallish group marching in one of the world’s biggest parades. And they’ll be likely end up being a far bigger presence at Pride week than they would have been otherwise. As Daniel Dale notes in the above-linked Toronto Star article, they’ve promised to hold “independent Pride Week events outside the festival.”
The other reason this move is a smart one: if you work from the assumption that Ford would like to eliminate city funding for parades and festivals — a sentiment he expressed while campaigning — this removes a mechanism he could use to kill Pride. QuAIA is unpopular enough with the broader public — and the votes on council are still weighted enough towards the mayor — that any bid to drop Pride funding and support would have likely been successful.
In an article by InsideToronto’s David Nickle this week, Pride co-chair Francesco Alvarez said that, had the city withdrew its funding and support for this year’s event, it likely would have resulted in the city losing its license for World Pride in 2014.
QuAIA’s move changes the game: now if Ford wants to attack Pride, he has to attack Pride. He and his allies can’t hide behind issues on the periphery. It’s a better way to frame the debate and I’d argue that, as an advocacy organization, QuAIA hasn’t really lost anything either. Their core messages have spread further than they would have otherwise.