Posts Tagged: quaia

Jul 11

Despite what Mammoliti says, there’s no reason to defund Pride

So Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is making the media rounds, talking excitedly about the great footage he shot at the Saturday Dyke March that will, he says, make for a slam-dunk case for withholding this year’s Pride funding.

What’s on the tape? The Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle has the details:

The 17-minutes of tape, which Mammoliti plans to edit down, shows about 30 parade marchers expressing pro-Palestinian opinions. Some carry a “Free Palestine” banner. Others call for a boycott of Israeli products. Others chant “End the occupation.” Some are not marching in the parade, but are standing at the sidelines.

via Pride funding in jeopardy after Mammoliti video gets rise from City –

Quick sidebar: I love that he plans to “edit down” his footage. He should use iMovie. Add some transitions — star wipes — and background music. Really make a show of it.

So, okay, he’s got footage of 30 or so people doing politicized things as part of a Pride event. Is that enough to justify withholding Pride funding? I’d argue that it isn’t. In fact, I would argue that the City of Toronto, as an agency that entered into a good faith agreement with Pride Toronto to provide money and services for the week-long event, has no grounds to even consider withholding funding for Pride 2011. Money was committed and Pride Toronto displayed Toronto’s logo as an event supporter. The only condition of the deal — that no participant violate the City’s anti-discrimination policy — was most assuredly upheld. To renege on the deal at this point isn’t just bad politics — it’s bad business.

But let’s ignore all that and focus on Mammoliti’s arguments. To have even a shred of credibility on this issue, he needs to prove a couple of things. First, that Pride Toronto was derelict in their duty by allowing these participants to march. Second, that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid broke their word and participated in an official Pride event, despite promises that they would not.

Based on the facts we have at hand, neither appears to be true. The group that marched on Saturday was “Dykes and Trans People for Palestine.” QuAIA’s actions were limited to dropping a banner at the Sunday Pride parade, something they seem to be very proud of. While the group that marched on Saturday did express solidarity with QuAIA, it’s ludicrous to the point of insanity to expect that any event organizer can or should be held accountable for the behaviour of every single person in attendance. That would be like holding the Leafs responsible for the behaviour of their fans at hockey games.

Jul 11

Giorgio Mammoliti: Toronto’s Michele Bachmann?

Matt Taibbi has an awesome feature in this month’s issue of Rolling Stone detailing the unlikely political career of Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. The whole article is online, and I highly recommend you read it — there are some echoes of Municipal Election 2010 on page three of the article, when Taibbi writes about the difference between “being mocked and being taken seriously” — but the reason I’m pointing this out today is for the article’s reference to a time wherein the famously anti-gay Bachmann was caught hiding in some bushes outside a gay rights rally:

Bachmann’s obsession with gay culture led her to bizarre behavioral extremes. In April 2005, after the State Senate refused to even vote on her constitutional amendment, she hid in the bushes outside the State Capitol during a gay-rights rally. A photo shows Bachmann, only the top of her Stepford head visible, crouched alone in an extreme catcher’s squat behind the Capitol shrubbery. She later insisted she wasn’t hiding at all, but resting because her heels hurt.

via Michele Bachmann’s Holy War | Rolling Stone Politics.

Here’s the photo.

Sounds like a ridiculous only-in-America scenario, but then this weekend Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti was discovered playing the same kind of paranoid witch-hunt game, when revellers at Saturday’s Dyke March caught him standing, stone-faced, holding his camcorder while the parade marched down Church Street. He was on a mission, apparently, to discover and capture anti-semitic elements who might appear in the crowds at the parade.

The Toronto Star’s Chloé Fedio:

Giorgio Mammoliti and his camcorder want to axe city funding for Pride Week.

The city councillor says he captured an anti-Israeli group chanting the controversial phrase “Israeli Apartheid” during Saturday’s Dyke Parade.

“I see this as cockiness, I see this as a slap in the face to City Hall and I see this as a slap in the face to taxpayers in this city,” Mammoliti said after the parade. “This councillor does not want them to get funded this year. I will be seeing whether the mayor agrees with me.”

via Councillor urges end to Pride funding after filming Dyke March –

This whole Queers Against Israeli Apartheid battle is so very tiring. City Council voted last year voted to withhold funding to Pride Toronto until after the parade, to ensure compliance with their anti-discrimination policy. The idea was that this measure would keep QuAIA out of the parade. City staff later ruled that, in fact, QuAIA didn’t violate their anti-discrimination policy, which threw a wrench into the whole deal. But then QuAIA promised to not march in this year’s parade. A promise which they appear to have kept, despite members of some other groups apparently picking up their cause.

I’m sure Mammoliti has some lovely video of someone saying the words “Israel Apartheid” at the Dyke March or waving a Palestinian flag, but none of that even begins to disqualify Pride from receiving their city grant. Unless parade organizers are found to have knowingly allowed a group to participate in the parade whose message violates the City of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy, council has no grounds to withdraw committed funds.

What’s worse is that, at the heart of things, the City and Pride Toronto have a business relationship. The City provides a small amount of grant funds and in-kind support to allow for Pride Week events and, in turn, the city gets a ton of return on investment in the form of tourist dollars and cultural activity. It’s a win for everyone.

Councillor Mammoliti’s actions — and, to be fair, this is not even in the top five most ridiculous things he’s ever done — threaten that business relationship. If the councillor and the mayor want to kill Pride, they should just be honest about it.

“Grassroots Community”

The Star’s David Rider has more from our favourite councillor in his (very good) article about the fall-out from Ford’s decision not to attend Pride. Talking to Rider, Giorgio defends the mayor’s absence:

“I haven’t heard from anybody in the grassroots community say that the Pride community is right,” said Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West). “If anything they’re saying that they’re irritated by what the Pride community is saying.

“Some people chose to make it political and the reality is we have bigger things to talk about, like where are we going to get our money for 2012, to deal with our $700 million deficit?”

via Ford and the ‘family values’ case for gay rights | Toronto Star.

Okay, two questions:

First, who are the ‘grassroots community?’ Can I be included with the grassroots community? Why do their opinions matter more than others?

Second, if we’re looking at ways to improve the city’s overall fiscal condition, large cultural events that boost the desirability of Toronto to outsiders are surely not a bad place to start, right?

Jun 11

Proud of Levy

From Sue-Ann Levy’s latest, discussing Councillor James Pasternak’s desire to rewrite Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy:

Pasternak said he’s asked the new anti-discrimination policy ensures “no public funds or city-permitted space” is given to a group involved in Israeli Apartheid.

via No hatred at Pride this year | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun.

I would think Queers Against Israeli Apartheid would very much support such a policy.

On a serious note: Levy’s column is problematic — it always is — echoing the repeated falsehood that the City of Toronto could withhold this year’s Pride funding if QuAIA did march (on what grounds?), and pushing the viewpoint that it would be simple for Toronto to craft an anti-discrimination policy that would rule out groups like QuAIA.

But she ends with a quick appeal to Mayor Rob Ford, asking him to march in this year’s Pride parade. To “be the mayor of all the people.”

Levy is never more sympathetic than when she does stuff like that. That she does so while followed by a Toronto Sun comment section that tells her to “Keep convincing yourself’s your normal and one day you’ll believe it but it won’t make it true [sic]”  and to “Give it a rest, dyke” makes her stand all the more appealing.

Still, though, she’s wrong about almost everything else almost all of the time.

May 11

The Cover of QuAIA: Why is Rob Ford avoiding Pride events?

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.

via Pride funding controversy heats up | Home | Toronto Sun.

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.

Apr 11

Pride and Prejudice and Revisionist History

Since last week’s announcement from Queers Against Israeli Apartment stating that they would not march in this year’s Pride parade, some have advanced the idea that we shouldn’t trust QuAIA or Pride because they pulled a tricky bait-and-switch last year, where Pride temporarily banned the controversial group, accepted the city’s money, then unbanned QuAIA and allowed them into the parade.

The National Post’s Matt Gurney is guilty of doing this an incredible THREE times over the course of the last week: here, here, and finally here.

Even the mayor is mistaken about the nature of the motion council adopted last year, as reported in My Town Crier by Kris Scheuer.

If the organization doesn’t participate, then Ford said that Pride Toronto can still get a city grant of about $125,000.

“Last year council agreed if they don’t (participate), they (Pride) will get their money after the parade. That’s what we agreed on,” the mayor said at an April 15 media scrum. “If (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid) does march in the parade (Pride) won’t get their money.”

via Funding fracas – TownNEWS – – the online home of Toronto’s Town Crier Group of Community Newspapers.

For the record, there is no such agreement in place. There never was. Council has never even considered a motion that would specifically ban QuAIA from the parade.

Two items came before council last year related to this issue, both moved by Giorgio Mammoliti. First, he attempted to ensure that Pride Toronto enforced the City of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy if it wanted to continue to receive city funds. When that got punted to the executive committee and then ruled redundant after Pride announced they would tighten review standards for parade participants, Mammoliti later moved a second motion that made Pride’s funding contingent on their being compliant with the city’s anti-discrimination policy — the city would only deliver funds after the parade. This passed 36-1.

This is why the news last week that staff had ruled that the phrase ‘Israel Apartheid’ did not violate the anti-discrimination policy was so important. It makes the motion irrelevant, at least as far as QuAIA goes. Without adopting a new motion that explicitly bans QuAIA, Council has no grounds to deny Pride funding this year, even if the group does march.

Apr 11

The high road: QuAIA withdraws from Pride Parade

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.”

via Queers Against Israeli Apartheid quits Pride parade and issues challenge to mayor –

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.