by Peter Kuitenbrouwer | NationalPost.com | July 4, 2011
As Toronto woke up and swept up Monday from its annual celebration of all things lesbian and gay, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti argued that the City of Toronto should not turn over the $128,000 that it promised to Pride Toronto for the 2011 festivities because of anti-Israel slogans he caught on camera during Saturday’s Dyke March.
Mr. Mammoliti (York West) went to the march with his city-bought video camera, and caught images of a group called Dykes and Trans People for Palestine. They walked up Yonge Street carrying a banner reading “Israeli Apartheid”; one woman wore a T-Shirt that reads, on the back, “Boycott Israeli Products”; and one carried a placard reading, “Nion supports Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.” (Not In Our Name, or NION, is a group of Jewish people opposed to Zionism.)
“People can say and do what they want in this country,” Mr. Mammoliti said Monday. “They should be able to carry the banners they want but not on the public dime.”
Mr. Mammoliti, wearing a flourescent-orange Lacoste golf shirt (“I wanted to be part of the rainbow,” he quipped) brought a disc containing his video footage to the press gallery and played it for reporters. He sang along with a chant he caught on the tape: “We’re sexy! We’re hot! Israeli apartheid’s not!”
One television journalist asked him whether there is something creepy about a middle-aged male city councillor bringing his video camera to record a group of lesbians.
“Is it creepy that reporters go up to peoples’ cottages in Muskoka?” Mr. Mammoliti retorted, in reference to an apparent trip by a Toronto Star reporter to cottage country Sunday, seeking the Mayor, who had said he would be there rather than attend the Pride Parade in Toronto.
“I am defending the Jewish community,” he continued. “They [parade organizers] are guilty of irritating and upsetting a whole community.”
Last year, after Jewish groups objected to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid marching in the Pride parade, City Council decided to give the nine-day festival its funding only after its conclusion. That policy remains in place this year. The city also provides about $250,000 of police and clean-up services.
City bureaucrats ruled in May that the phrase “Israeli apartheid” does not violate any city policies; even so, QAIA defused the controversy by telling Pride it would not march in the parade this year.
Glen Brown, executive director of Pride, called Mr. Mammoliti’s accusations “ridiculous.”
“If there was a placard, I didn’t see it,” he said. “We are not in the business of censoring every bit of text and every T-shirt. If we censored every idea that Councillor Mammoliti doesn’t like, we wouldn’t have much of a festival. You can Google what he’s said over the years about our community.
“We have been compliant with the city’s anti-discrimination policy. Now we are being asked to comply with policies that don’t even exist, that the councillor seems to be making up on his own.”
City officials directed calls to Mayor Rob Ford’s office; his press secretary in turn said she was trying to get clarification from city officials whether Pride Toronto’s funding will be reviewed.