Monday, March 15, 2010

oh toronto pride, so not.. proud.

a storm is brewing over toronto pride that is threatening to rain on *some* people's parade.

pride toronto released its terms and conditions for the 2010 pride events/parade and it includes groups participating in the pride parade and dyke march having their signs approved by pride toronto.

in their press release co-chair jim cullen wrote that all messages of participating groups must "support the theme of the 2010 festival: celebrating 30 years of pride in toronto."

apparently this new policy is aimed at curbing hate speech at pride.

according to tracey sandilands, the executive director of pride toronto:

"the real purpose of this is to ensure that if someone turns up with real hate messaging - which has happened before in the history of pride toronto - that the mechanisms are in place to remove them and we don't all stand helplessly by. its not about preventing freedom of speech at any time. it's about being proactive to ensure the measures are in place to protect everyone that takes part and everyone that comes to watch."

when i first read that i was like, bitch please. you think someone is going to show up at PRIDE and spew hate, and the millions of participants are going to stand "helplessly by"? of course the pride committee needs to be mindful of hate speech filtering through their process, but don't they remember how hate speech is a crime and how they are not police?

and the terms and condition already have a section dealing with hate.

7) Messaging in the Parade : a) The Applicant will not present any messages - verbal, written, in imagery or otherwise - that promotes or condones violence or the incitement of hatred as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada.

so, if someone is presenting a message of hatred then all of the billion volunteers, security, and police officers can kick them out. so if i show up with a sign that says "god hates fags" then i'm guessing some intrepid volunteer will ask me to leave.

so what's the point of this new policy when there's an already existing no tolerance policy for hate speech/signage/messages?

a lot of people, and i happen to be one of them, are pretty sure it has everything to with pride 2009 and queers against israeli apartheid(quaia). --which you can read more about here--

last year reports went out stating that pride might try to prevent quaia from marching in the parade--afterwards pride backpedaled and said they only wanted quaia to register before marching(let's try to ignore for a moment how problematic it is to have to register for this parade...).

quaia's involvement in pride has drawn a lot of heat from zionist groups, however, and i'd guess with the majority that a big reason for the new policy as well as the bullying of quaia was/is to protect corporate sponsors who are affiliated or who ARE zionist groups.

in the xtra article that first discussed the new policy, gary kinsman(one of the founders of the original pride day in toronto as well as a former active member of the simon nkodi anti-apartheid committee) stated:

"i'm really quite disturbed about this...that [pride has] new types of criteria that can be used to bar people — rather than welcoming people into our movements to express their political views, as long as they're not expressing hatred or bigotry, it's a bit frightening."

in response to the new policy a facebook group was started by jeffrey andrus and rick telfer called "don't sanitize pride: free expression must prevail" and it already has 931 members.

i asked rick how he would respond to people who want to know what's wrong with trying to prevent hate speech at pride and he said that he agrees that there's nothing wrong with it, "so long as hate is clearly defined in keeping with canadian law." he pointed to hate crime law , noting that "the process is simple, and there's no room for misuse or abuse."

so what's going on here?? is this an attempt by pride toronto to "sanitize" pride events? to de-politicize pride? to keep corporate sponsors happy?

it'll be interesting to see if the pressure on pride results in them retracting the policy or not. there is no "one" approved message for pride but over the years the queer community has seen pride parades in toronto become less and less diverse, less representative of the muli-facetted nature of the community, and more corporate driven than is comfortable. apparently we're only allowed to celebrate our pride if we're naked and we have a corporate sponsorship painted on our bodies.

(photo by emily mcdonald)

(we contacted tracey sandilands but have received no comment from her.)

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...