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Toronto to Update Anti-Discrimination Policy

Motion passed would see Canada's largest city updating its anti-discrimination policy so that "Israeli Apartheid" violates city standards.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/20/2011, 4:19 AM / Last Update: 6/20/2011, 4:15 AM

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Canada’s largest city has voted to re-write and update its anti-discrimination policies so that terms such as “Israeli Apartheid” would violate city standards.

The motion was voted on by Toronto’s municipal council last Wednesday and passed with an overwhelming majority of 33 to 1, The Toronto Sun reported.

It was presented by Toronto city councilor James Pasternak, a Jewish member of city council who represents an area of the city with a relatively large Jewish population.

The motion directs the city’s manager to put together an updated discrimination policy that will ensure events funded by the city or that take place on city property promote respect, tolerance and diversity.

The motion was likely aimed at ensuring groups like Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) do not take part in city-funded events such as the Gay Pride Parade.

The group argues on its website that despite Israel’s liberal laws regarding gays, “Queer Palestinians continue to face the challenge of living under occupation and apartheid, subject to Israeli state violence and control.”

QuAIA was allowed to march in last year’s Pride Parade in Toronto, despite many complaints by citizens that the Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with homosexuality and lobbied to prevent the group from marching.

The vote in city council to re-word the anti-discrimination policy came just weeks after the city’s executive committee voted to permit the funding of this year’s Toronto Gay Pride Parade, despite a possible participation by QuAIA.

The earlier decision followed a report by Toronto’s city manager who ruled that the term “Israeli Apartheid” does not violate Toronto's anti-discrimination policies.

Pasternak told The Toronto Sun the problem with the city’s existing anti-discrimination policy is that it is 13 years old and the city manager felt he “didn’t have the tools” to keep QuAIA away from city events.

He added that he has asked the new anti-discrimination policy to ensure that “no public funds or city-permitted space” is given to a group involved in Israeli Apartheid.

He was quoted by The Toronto Sun as saying, “Ideally we will not let groups carry messages of demonization and intolerance into city-funded public places.”

Last year the Pride Parade received a $123,807 grant by the city, but The Toronto Sun reported that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has announced that the grant will be withheld this year until after the July 3 Pride parade, to ensure QuAIA does not march.

Toronto Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti told the newspaper that if QuAIA appears during Pride week, the Parade would likely lose its grant and the city could backcharge the parade’s organizers for the city services it had received free of charge.