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Anti-Israel Group May Join Toronto Gay Parade

The activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is planning to return to the gay pride parade in Toronto, setting up another battle with Jewish groups and the city.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid withdrew from last year’s Pride Toronto parade after city officials demanded assurances that the group would not take part amid rumblings that funding to the parade could be withdrawn.

“We decided we didn’t want to be the scapegoat for Pride not getting funding from the city, but this year we feel it’s time to go back,” QAIA spokesman Tony Souza told the Toronto Star on May 15. “It so happens that the issue we’re talking about is controversial, but that doesn’t mean that the work that we do, which is basically for justice for people, should not be celebrated.”

The Pride Toronto festival, to be held June 22 to July 1, will publish a list of groups in early June that have registered to participate. If a complaint is filed, which is likely in this case, a panel of legal experts will render a final decision on whether QAIA can march.

Some Toronto officials and Canadian Jewish groups object to QAIA because they say linking Israel to South African-style apartheid is odious and inaccurate. The groups note that Israel is the only Middle East country where homosexuality is tolerated.

Howard English, senior vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said he hopes the Toronto City Council “keeps in mind the hateful nature of QAIA’s messaging and the extent to which it’s divorced from the reality of public opinion among the people of Toronto.”

In March 2011, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told the Canadian Jewish News that “taxpayer dollars should not go toward funding hate speech.”

The city has recommended that the council allocate $1.6 million to the Pride festival.

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