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Queer Ontario Opposes Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution Process

April 15th, 2011 Comments off


Urges organization to dissolve its adjudication committee and  stand up for the right of all LGBTQ groups to participate in the festival

Queer Ontario
is declaring its strong opposition to the Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) established by Pride Toronto on April 12, 2011 to investigate and resolve any and all complaints around the participation of community groups in its annual Pride Parade. Queer Ontario does so not only because of the professional and political biases of its chosen adjudicators, but also because of the effects the DRP will have to the toleration of differences within Toronto’s LGBTQ communities.

Much like the formation of the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) in September of 2010, and the formation of the CAP Implementation Committee / Advisory Panel established on March 31st, Queer Ontario is seriously questioning the non-transparent and undemocratic process that was used to strike the DRP Panel. We are pressed to ask:

1.  Why has Douglas Elliott been appointed Chair of the DRP, given that he has expressed less than progressive views on the role of politics in the Pride Parade (as evidenced by a keynote speech he gave to the Law Society of Upper Canada last year, where he noted that the Parade is “primarily a celebration of our sexuality and gender identity, not a political protest…”)?

2.  Why was Elliott appointed Chair, given that he was one of the individuals who met with Pride Toronto behind closed doors last year to discuss the idea of the CAP as a solution to community protests? Are his appointment as Chair of the DRP, the CAP’s recommendation to establish the DRP, and his input at this initial meeting in any way connected?

3.  Why did Pride Toronto appoint mostly lawyers and legal experts as DRP officers, some of whom are not LGBTQ-identified, and many of whom, like Elliott, hold less than progressive views on the political aspects of Pride? Why did it not engage a broader range of legal professionals with progressive perspectives on human rights issues? Or, better yet: Why did it not include other non-legal professionals who are just as qualified in mediation and conflict resolution work? What is the point of establishing a quasi-juridical body that has the power to determine, with ‘legal’ but legally unbinding authority, who can or cannot participate in the Parade?

4.  Why did Pride Toronto not consult with members of the community and/or set up a more democratic selection process to appoint its DRP officers?

5.  And lastly: Now that Toronto’s city manager has announced that the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid’ does not contravene the City of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy, will the DRP be using the city’s anti-discrimination policy as the criteria for permitting disputed organizations to participate in the parade? If not, what criteria will they be using?

Indeed, it seems that despite the proposed recommendations in the CAP Report and the (hopefully) critical advice it has been receiving from CAP Implementation Committee, Pride Toronto is still engaging in its old practices of resisting transparency, accountability and responsibility.

While Queer Ontario supports a Pride Toronto conflict resolution process in principle, it cannot support an unelected decision-making body that is not at arms-length from either the Pride Toronto Board or the CAP – especially if this body is not consultative in nature, is not representative of Toronto’s LGBTQ communities, relies on questionable interpretations of laws and policies designed to undermine the freedom of expression enjoyed by all Canadians, and was chosen without any input whatsoever from the community. As in all other aspects of its operation, Pride Toronto should adopt a conflict resolution process that is based on empathy, diplomacy, consensus-building, community inclusion, representation, and engagement.

Indeed, Queer Ontario feels that, despite the claims being put forward by Pride Toronto, the DRP will operate as a de facto censor board, with the potential of inadvertently setting up a modern-day witch hunt that will pit community groups against one another and deny otherwise legitimate groups their legal right to free speech and expression. Rather than provide a safe space where LGBTQ community groups can openly and freely display the full spectrum of their gender identification, sexuality, and politics, the DRP will establish a mechanism that will allow groups to target one another with the aim of having so-called ‘controversial’ groups removed from the parade, and will conversely fail to protect these targeted groups from unwarranted attack – a completely demoralizing process. As such, we demand much more leadership and courage from Pride Toronto and ask that it instead take an unequivocal stance on the right of all LGBTQ community groups to participate in the Pride Festival, despite their politics or expression.

Queer Ontario urges Pride Toronto to dismantle this resolution process, to stop acquiescing to the pressures of the City of Toronto, and to publicly recognize all LGBTQ community groups as valid, and valued, participants in the Pride Parade – QuAIA, Kulanu, and  TNT!Men included – and to defend their right to be in the Pride Festival. To do so would mean that Pride Toronto is indeed committed to the often conflicting diversity of Toronto’s LGBTQ communities, and that it has the integrity and the courage to truly embrace and champion all of its constituent LGBTQ community groups.

Queer Ontario is a provincially based network of individuals who are members of the gender and sexually diverse populations and their allies committed to liberationist and sex positive principles that focus on questioning, challenging and seeking reform to social norms and laws that regulate queer people. Queer Ontario engages in public education, political action, promoting access and diversity and coalition building.

Queer Ontarios own community report on Pride Toronto, drawn from the survey that it conducted earlier this year, will be released by the end of the month.


For more information, please contact:

Nick Mulé
Queer Ontario

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