Pinkwashing at Halifax Pride AGM

The annual general meeting of Halifax Pride on October 5 ended in what has been described as a coup. A group called Queer Arabs of Halifax had proposed a resolution which would “identify and remove pinkwashing content” from Pride festivities in reference to a Tel Aviv tourism booth that has been present at Halifax Pride for the past four years. Pinkwashing is a term referring to corporations or governments participating in Pride events as a way to downplay their own questionable practices when it comes to human rights while appealing to LGBTQ2SI consumers in advertisements or promotions. An example of pinkwashing is Justin Trudeau’s jubilant participation in Toronto Pride this year, despite his signing off on the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, a country which violently oppresses people in the LGBTQ2SI community.

A group called “Size Doesn’t Matter” has had a booth at Halifax Pride promoting Tel Aviv, Israel as a friendly travel destination for members of the LGBTQ2SI community. Queer Arabs of Halifax has been outspoken in their discomfort regarding such a booth at Pride events indicating that its presence makes Arab members of the community feel excluded as it undermines the safety of the space for them. Size Doesn’t Matter contends that they are not funded by the Israeli government whatsoever however those who are familiar with the Israel-Palestine conflict can appreciate why the presence of an Israeli tourism booth would be problematic at an event meant to reclaim power for oppressed groups.

In response to the resolution set forth by QAH, the Atlantic Jewish Council brought about 200 of their members to the Pride AGM, offering a shuttle service, food and child care so as many of their members as possible could attend. To the Atlantic Jewish Council, the QAH resolution was “anti-Semitic” although other members of the Jewish community were in favour of the resolution.

A local advocacy group called the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project submitted a petition of 503 names in support of the QAH motion. Ardath Whynacht of NSRAP said that supporters of the QAH motion have been “receiving abuse” from the Jewish Defense League, a group which has been described as “extremist.”

The meeting soon spiralled out of control. Because the rules of the Pride committee allow any member of the public to attend and register to vote at the AGM, 200 supporters of the AJC were able to vote down the QAH motion while booing, interrupting and aggressively telling members of the LGBTQ2SI community as well as people of colour and women to “shut up.” The Atlantic Jewish Council effectively silenced the voices of the LBGTQ2SI community at their own event through aggression. Ardath Whynacht noted that “we were outvoted by straight, cisgender members of a religious organization who deliberately attended to block our motions.”

By the end of the meeting, many had left in protest. Those remaining, largely AJC members, elected one of their own members to the Pride board.

The Halifax Club and Red Lobster Club of the Communist Party of Canada participated in their first Halifax Pride parade this year. However unless there is a significant upheaval regarding the decisions made at the AGM, the Clubs will be boycotting the Halifax Pride events next year in favour

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