Toronto

Jewish groups decry Pride's Israeli decision

Jewish groups are angry that organizers of Toronto's Gay Pride festival have decided to reverse an earlier ban that prevented the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group from participating in Pride Week events.

Jewish groups are angry that organizers of Toronto's Gay Pride festival have decided to reverse an earlier ban that prevented the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group from participating in the Pride Week events.

Earlier this year, Pride Toronto decided to ban the group from their July 4 parade for fear that allowing them to participate would jeopardize their funding from the City of Toronto.

That decision caused an outcry within Pride Toronto, with some members saying the decision smacked of censorship.

On Thursday, Pride Toronto's board lifted the ban, saying it was not up to them to decide whether groups violated the city's anti-discrimination policy. Instead, Pride Toronto will now ask all groups participating in Pride Week to first sign the city's anti-discrimination policy.

That decision has riled some members of Toronto's Jewish community, who held a press conference Friday to express their displeasure at what they say is a flip-flop on the issue.

Filmmaker Martin Gladstone said Toronto Pride should have stood firm in the face of the controversy.

"It was a bad move by the board who could not stand their ground and have cowered to intimidation threats and bullying of Israeli Apartheid," Gladstone told CBC News on Friday.

Elle Flanders is a spokesperson for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) and said opponents of the ban had legitimate concerns about free speech within Pride Toronto.

"There was an enormous outcry from a very large portion of the community that has nothing to do with QAIA that understood that pride is built on tenets of free speech."

Mayoral candidates also waded into the debate Friday.

"I want to express my disappointment and disgust with Pride Toronto's decision to allow this hateful group to march," said mayoral hopeful Rob Ford.

Giorgio Mammoliti, who is also running for mayor, will introduce a motion at council demanding that Pride return all city funding, about $250,000.

"It really is now a matter of Pride understanding that their decision has become very costly to the parade," said Mammoliti.

The motion also calls for the city to reject all of Pride's future funding requests.

With files from CBC's Jamie Strashin

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