TORONTO (JTA) — A local activist group vows that it will march in this year’s Toronto Gay Pride parade despite being ordered by parade organizers to drop references to "Israeli apartheid."
"I don’t think that a suggestion that they don’t like our message should keep us out of Pride," Queers Against Israeli Apartheid spokeswoman Elle Flanders told the Toronto Star. "So there is an intention to march, and we will find the message that works in that march and we will be there. We need our voice to be heard."
Flanders declined to disclose the banner under which the group will march.
Organizers of the July 4 parade, which for years has been a major event in the city, said that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid would be welcomed if it marched under the name Queers in Favor of a Free Palestine, for example. Flanders said her group would not consider such a change, setting up a potential confrontation on the day of the event.
Earlier this month, the Canadian government cut funding to the annual parade by dropping it from a tourism stimulus package.
A Toronto city councillor has introduced a motion to withdraw city "funding and support" from the Pride event if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is allowed to participate. The resolution, which calls for the withdrawal of $121,000 in funding, has been referred to the city’s executive committee.
Parade organizers estimate that without the city’s support and endorsement, some $500,000 in funding could be lost. In addition, streets would not be closed for the parade. Between $200,000 and $300,000 in potential new sponsorships already have been lost over the controversy, according to organizers.
In a recent column in the National Post newspaper, Martin Gladstone, a Jewish gay rights advocate and lawyer, said Queers Against Israeli Apartheid "can create their own, say, Anti-Zionism Pride event, and march up and down the street all day long. But they can’t pretend that their message has anything to do with gay pride.
"Just because they are a queer group doesn’t give them a right to march at a gay event. Saying you are a queer group speaks to your membership, not your mandate."