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Halifax Pride: On BDS, BLM and LGBTSQ2+

by mikaela gorman

Who would have thought a parade would result in so much fuss? As Halifax Pride Week opens its 29th year of rainbow and glitter-bombed gayety, other social issues threaten to steal the spotlight. A petition, launched on the morning of July 14, the opening day of Pride in Halifax, took the familiar fight over Israel's oppression of Palestine to task.

Penned by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, based on a previously failed campaign by the group Queer Arabs of Halifax, the petition seeks to have a Tel Aviv Tourism kiosk, and any other "pink washing" agents of the state of Israel permanently banned from taking part in any future Halifax Pride events, or advertising throughout the festival (commonly referenced to as the Boycott, Divest and Sanction, or BDS movement). While often a socially conservative nation, Tel Aviv stands as Israel's modern city, home to mostly progressive politics, sandy beaches and Westernized pop-culture. A popular spot for tourists and new comers to Israel alike for years, the city has only seen an increase in that popularity following the 'fall' of Beirut, once deemed the Paris of the Middle East, along with many once-modern cities in Syria. To LGBT Jews and gentiles in the region alike, it has as well long stood as a place of relative tolerance, in a sea of orthodox religion.

"We the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Queer Arabs of Halifax to demand that Halifax Pride: remove Tel Aviv Tourism from the the Community Fair and any other events associated with, or the sponsorship of, Halifax Pride." As of press time, the petition had 92 signatures, with comments from community members such as Gary Kinsman, who has made headlines in the past campaigning against Israeli representation at Pride.

Arguably, this may be a form of selective pink washing, as festival sponsor TD Bank, rainbow-flag-covered atm provider CIBC, and many others do business in and with Israel and Israeli businesses, including many universities and the governments of Nova Scotia and Canada. This isn't the first time the BDS issue has come before Halifax Pride; they decided in 2014 not to ban those affiliated with Israel, despite the protests of activists such as Kinsman, Queer Arabs and Rad Pride.

Of course, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protest at the Toronto Pride Parade, the festival, often lamented as "too commercial", has taken on  a new social urgency, and might possibly serve as a stage for more specifically targeted activist agendas.

Halifax Pride has already brushed aside calls for the removal of uniformed officers from the parade and surrounding events, while admitting to the Metro freebie newspaper that the realities of organizing the festival are something of a balancing act.

A conveniently timed report released earlier this week found the HRP to be the most community-reflective police force in the country, no doubt helping convince the socially conscious that while there may be issues with law enforcement, Halifax's own (despite cries of "Alabama of Canada" whenever a minority-targeting crime  occurs) are a bit more on the awareness ball than others. While the local contingent of BLM remains relatively silent, despite being name checked by movement co-founder Janaya Khan in a recent issue of Macleans, many in the community expect a surprise come parade time, much as seen in Toronto. The group though may face an uphill battle within the local community due to the presence and popularity of Quentrel Provo's Stop The Violence campaign, which has staged recent marches including hundreds of Haligonians from all walks of life, in contrast to the often-confrontational BLM activism.

Halifax Pride hasn't addressed the petition at presstime.

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