A Victory for Free Speech ‑ Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution Panel dismisses complaint against QuAIA

July 24th, 2012 by Iler Campbell LLP

A decision (pdf)  handed down by the Dispute Resolution Panel of Pride Toronto has dismissed a complaint lodged by B’nai Brith against the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in the Pride Toronto March. Charles Campbell represented QuAIA at the hearing on June 27th. The Panel issued a “bottom line” decision on June 29th, so as to allow QiAIA to participate in the parade on July 1st. They subsequently released the full reasons for the decision on July 9th.

In its complaint, B’nai Brith objected to QuAIA’s participation in the march, claiming the organization’s message was contrary to Pride Toronto’s policy, the City of Toronto’s Anti‑Discrimination Policy, and the Ontario Human Rights Code, although conceding during the hearing that it could not be considered “hate speech” pursuant to the Criminal Code . QuAIA maintained that its messaging is an expression of views and opinions forming part of the broader public political debate regarding the on‑going conflict in the middle east, and urged the Panel to apply Freedom of Expression values when interpreting Pride Toronto’s policies.

In its decision, the Panel rejected the arguments of B’nai Brith on a number of grounds ultimately deciding that the use of “Israeli Apartheid” was not discriminatory, and even going so far as to question the organization’s belief in its own argument for not filing a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in years gone. The Panel reasoned that “simply adopting a political view that a country, or its government, is engaging in policies which creates something akin to apartheid itself, affecting an identifiable group cannot possible fall with the accepted definition of discrimination.”

The decision by the panel to dismisses the complaint against QuAIA and allow the group to participate in the march was a not only a victory for the organization individually, but a win for freedom of expression on a whole.

Filed in: Human Rights

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