Toronto Mayor Holds Pride Hostage

April 18th, 2011

Rob Ford, with Bambi eyes, declares "Trust me."

Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, has decided to cut all city funding to Toronto Pride, Canada’s largest gay pride festival (and one of biggest and most popular festivals overall) unless a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is disallowed from marching in the parade portion of the weeklong festivities.

A bizarre (and stupid) controversy surrounding QAIA has been going on for a few years now, but this is the first time that the city council has taken to micromanaging Toronto Pride’s activities. In response, QAIA decided over the weekend that they will take the high road and voluntarily withdraw their group from the parade and seek an alternate (and more appropriate) venue—a good idea. Not good enough for Ford, though, who says that Toronto Pride’s funding is still off the table and will only be provided after the parade, once there is definitive proof that the group isn’t marching.

I wouldn’t take his word for it. Ford has wanted to cut Toronto Pride’s funding for years—well before he became mayor, and well before QAIA was ever in the public consciousness. In leveraging a stupid controversy over a minor participant in just one of Toronto Pride’s weeklong events, Ford has found a convenient way to achieve his goal without it seeming like the plain homophobia it is.

In the meantime, Pride organizers are now left with the difficult task of planning one of Canada’s largest festivals without knowing their own budget. And with no help from the feds (we all remember what happened after the last time they decided to help the festival), I think we’ll be seeing Pride Toronto—one of Toronto’s largest tourist draws—scaled back substantially in the years to come.