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June 17, 2011

Israeli Apartheid: Toronto city council upholds free speech

The Canadian Charger

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At their meeting on June 14, the Toronto City Council voted to adopt the recommendation of the Executive Committee to accept the City Manager's Report that determined the phrase 'Israeli Apartheid' does not violate Toronto's Anti-Discrimination Policy, Ontario's Human Rights Code, or Canada's Criminal Code regarding hate speech.

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) immediately applauded the Toronto City Council “for upholding the fundamental right to free speech which is important to any democratic society that wishes to remain so.”

The Manager’s report also concluded that the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA) in the Pride Parade does not violate the City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy.

In a press release CAF said it knows that “some of those Toronto City Councillors who voted to accept the Manager’s report do not quite agree that Israeli laws and practices gravely discriminate against Palestinians, and therefore appreciates their principled stand for firmly opposing attempts to silence the growing number of Torontonians who view Israel as an Apartheid state.

Torontonians have a right to voice criticism of any country or government that they feel morally obliged to criticize. They should be able to do so without being accused of discriminating against Canadians who identify with that country or who have blood ties to it.

Toronto’s gay community is a vibrant and colourful part of Toronto’s cultural panorama, but also a vulnerable one. It is therefore no coincidence that the pro-Israel lobby has chosen Toronto’s gay community as a testing ground for its broader ongoing attempts to silence critics of Israel. Hence, Toronto City Council should resist pressure to impose on gay Pride organizers requirements that it would not impose on less vulnerable communities.”

CAF also called on the Toronto City Council “to disburse Pride’s funding before Pride Week, as it used to prior to meddling by pro-Israel lobbyists, since it would be discriminatory for Council to single out Pride Week for postponement of funding and for onerous requirements to prove its compliance with the City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy.

QuAIA itself has not violated the City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy. Therefore Pride Week organizers should not be pressured to prevent QuAIA from participating in Pride Parades by the threat of funding cuts or delays. Nor should Pride be expected to impose prior censorship on those wishing to participate in the Parade.”

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