Rev. Brent Hawkes says the controversial group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) did the right thing today by pulling themselves out of the Toronto Pride Parade.
Hawkes, Pride Community Advisory Panel chairman and senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, spoke at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications hours after the group released its decision.
“I think it was very smart of them,” Hawkes said. “I think there will be a lot of credibility…that lots of folks in and outside of the gay community will think they did the right thing. And it certainly removes one of the reasons that the people who are opposed to Pride would be using to take money away from Pride.”
Members of Toronto city council threatened to cut $120,000 of funding from the parade if the group marched.
Hawkes also defended himself from recent allegations made by the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy that he and his panel were “doing everything they can to ensure that the controversial Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group continue to march in this year’s Pride parade.”
“(It is) an absolute lie and she knows it,” said Hawkes, the reverend who performed Canada’s first ever same-sex wedding ceremony in 2001. “This is a case, unfortunately, where a journalist doesn’t want the truth coming away in her story. I’ve never been a member of QuAIA. I’ve never been a supporter of QuAIA. My job as the chair of the Community Advisory Panel was looking to listen to the community on a variety of different issues.”
The reverend said the panel was formed in June 2010 in an attempt to establish a more united vision for Pride based around its core values.
“Pride has evolved over the years without intentionality,” Hawkes said. “It evolved and grew and grew and grew. And lots of people didn’t like what it was becoming for a variety of different reasons, not just QuAIA. Some people thought it was too commercial. Too many of the big corporations got too much publicity. Other people didn’t like the fact that Pride was paying money for big names (like) Cyndi Lauper and not paying enough for smaller entertainers and they were allowing straight entertainers and not just gay entertainers…so there were lots of problems with Pride.”
After an exhaustive nine months-long process of over 30 meetings with 2,000 people, Hawkes and the panel recently released its final report. Hawkes said he’s pleased with Pride’s reaction to the group’s findings.
“We made our recommendations – 133 recommendations – and Pride, to their credit approved all of the recommendations in principle,” Hawkes said.
“I’m very pleased that Pride has started looking into the report and are doing their best to rebuild Pride and reconnect Pride to the community.”
2011 Pride Week, the 31st annual celebration, takes place the week of June 24 to July 3.