Olivia Chow, moderator Jamie Watt and John Tory talk about Pride Parade funding.

Photo: Rob Foreman

Pride Parade funding takes centre stage in LGBTQ debate

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By Rob Foreman

Mayoral candidate John Tory said at a debate on campus Friday that if elected he will not publicly fund Toronto’s Pride Week, due to the participation of one specific group.

Toronto is home to one of Canada’s largest LGBTQ communities, and candidates made it clear they are accepting of all sexual orientations.

But Tory wants to eliminate funding on account of the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in the parade.

“Any publicly-funded parade that uses those words [anti-Israeli apartheid] should not receive that funding,” he said.

Chow argued that public funding should not be pulled from the entire parade because of just one organization.

“We live in a country that celebrates democracy,” Chow said. “Whether we agree with them or not, they have every right to exercise their point of view.”

Chow doesn’t understand why this decision is being revisited. She said that participation of QuAIA in the parade was a very big discussion in the community in 2011 and now there is finally some resolution.

“I can’t imagine what message would be sent — with World Pride this year — that if they lost their funding, what message are we sending out to other Pride [organizations]?” she said.

Tory said that he was not targeting the gay community and that if there was a parade going on in the Jewish community that included a group of people with a homophobic message, he would be against funding them as well.

“In a city that says it prides itself on embracing diversity and that we don’t believe we should be going around spewing hateful kind of language and expressions and so on, then we should be saying – in our policies – that kind of view is not going to be supported by public funding,” Tory said.

Chow said that she trusts the city manager and the city solicitor’s judgement that this group does not violate Toronto’s human rights policies. She said that if anti-Israeli movements became viewed as hateful under the eyes of the law, she would not support the parade.

Although Tory doesn’t support QuAIA, he said that he is not trying to stop their freedom of speech.

“I’m simply talking about publicly funded events – that they should not be a place where this kind of hateful language is allowed or encouraged,” he said.

After the debate, Chow was asked if she thinks that she will lose the Jewish vote while Tory could lose the LGBTQ vote based on their stances on the topic.

“I think it is important that we do what is right, rather than be worried about whose votes I can get or not get,” she said.

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