In a few hours, the city’s executive committee will discuss EX6.21, “Compliant with the City of Toronto’s Anti-Discriminaion Policy.” By definition, this item amounts to little more than a staff recommendation that the executive committee receive a city report “for information.” In practice, however, this items presents an opportunity for someone — likely Giorgio Mammoliti — to attempt to pull city funding for this year’s Pride event.
This all stems from the potential participation of the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group. Though they’ve promised not to march in the parade this year, the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat reports that, for Mammoliti, that’s not good enough:
Mammoliti vowed that if the group takes part in Pride — and they’re is outrage — he will move to strip the city’s portion of funding.
“If the group shows up and people get upset in the city then it becomes a political decision on whether or not the funding should continue,” he added.
Ask if he’s worried he and Ford will be accused of being homophobic if they try to stop Pride funding, Mammoliti shrugged.
“It’s not about being homophobic, it’s about taking care of taxpayers’ dollars and where they should be going, they shouldn’t be going to help spread hatred,” he said.
The whole thing is ridiculous, of course. Whatever your feelings on QuAIA and their message, the city doesn’t get to dictate a cultural group’s actions and associations simply because they feel like it. A $128,000 cultural grant isn’t much of a ransom when you consider the millions upon millions of economic activity the city would forfeit if Pride disappeared from the city’s event calendar.
The issue was dead the moment staff ruled that the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” didn’t violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy.
The far more interesting story in all of this is the mayor’s continued disregard for the city’s gay community. In addition to his checkered voting record at council, in recent weeks Ford has skipped two major Pride-related events. And before apologists pull out the argument that says the mayor is busy and can’t be expected to attend every event in this city, it must be pointed out that both these events took place at City Hall. A token appearance would have required the mayor only to make a short trip from his office.
The first snub was bad but somewhat forgivable. Taking place on a Monday evening, the “Proud of Toronto” ceremony was part of the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia. There were no major meetings at City Hall that day, so it’s possible the mayor was tied up in another part of the city.
It’s the second snub, coming the day after, that’s less defensible. Taking place during the lunch break on the first day of last week’s City Council meeting, this short event saw the raising of a flag on the roof of City Hall by PFLAG — the Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays. The headline speaker was Brian Burke, the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and father of the late Brendan Burke.
The event seemed a natural fit for our mayor. Restrained, respectful, and tangentially related to a major sports team, it’s challenging to even come up with reasons why he wouldn’t make an appearance. Toronto is not a city with a large anti-gay voting bloc, and even for those social conservatives that do exist, where are they going to take their support? The mayor loses no political capital with his base by showing up, shaking hands, and posing for a quick photo.
Calling someone homophobic is a harsh accusation in this day and age, and probably too weighty for this set of circumstances. But the mayor’s actions — or lack thereof — have given the label far more plausibility than it should have. It’s time for the mayor to stop hiding behind the pretenses of the QuAIA controversy and make at least a token gesture to the queer community in this city.
A leisurely downtown stroll during Pride week would be a good place to start. But, oh, he says he might be busy that day.