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Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy to be revised

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TORONTO — A motion to amend Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy was passed by city council last week.

James Pasternak

James Pasternak, councillor for Ward 10 York Centre, put forward the motion at last week’s council meeting in an effort to block groups such as Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from participating in city funded events.

QuAIA has marched in the Pride Parade every year since 2008.

The motion asks City Manager Joe Pennachetti to report back to the executive committee later this year with an updated anti-discrimination policy ensuring that “events which are funded by the city, and/or take place on city property” conform to Toronto’s policy of “promoting respect, tolerance and diversity. And that the grants policy and use of space policy are consistent with the updated anti-discrimination policy.”

The motion passed council by a vote of 37-1, with eight councillors absent.

Pasternak said the motion is an outgrowth of the need for the city to update its anti-discrimination policy – it was last modified 13 years ago, he said – as well as in response to groups such as QuAIA who “threaten public safety” at public events.

The motion comes just weeks after the city’s executive committee voted to receive a report from Pennachetti that said the term “Israeli apartheid” did not technically contravene the city’s anti-discrimination policy.

Pasternak’s motion seeks to force city staff to “eliminate the current ambiguity” in the policy, Pasternak said in a statement.

Council had asked Pennachetti to review the policy last year after public outcry over Pride Toronto allowing the controversial group to participate in its event yet again.

Last week, council officially adopted Penacchetti’s report along with Pasternak’s amendment rider.

“The urban landscape [of Toronto] has changed a lot over 13 years and we have to always update our policy,” Pasternak said.

“By passing this motion, council sent a strong message that discrimination is not something we will fund or ignore in Toronto. The current anti-discrimination policy is out of date and out of touch.”  

Pasternak said that most of the work on his motion occurred behind the scenes, where he “worked hard” to get “enough support” from his fellow councillors to ensure the motion would pass.

“The real purpose of this motion is to ban QuAIA and return respect and tolerance to our civic events,” Pasternak said.

He added that while drafting the document he sought advice from different sources – including Canadian Jewish Congress – on how best to word his motion.

In a motion passed earlier this year, the city decided to fund Pride Toronto only after Pride week has occurred, on condition that QuAIA not be allowed to participate.

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