Bans, Boycotts and Where Do We Go From Here? II

Posted by wayves volunteer 31/10/2016


By Hugo Dann

The Meeting


"A member of the LGBTQ2+ community asked us at the very beginning of the meeting to listen to each other. But we didn’t, and now we are all worse off for it.” 



I was taking part in a play reading on the evening of October 5th, and was quite happy to have a legitimate reason not to attend Halifax Pride’s Annual General Meeting. I found the leadup conversations on social media prior to the AGM so jarring, angry, and intimidating that I had reluctantly decided not to participate. The ill informed, interventionist  grand-standing of politicians Jamie Baillie and Scott Brisondid nothing to raise the level of the discourse.

Sadly, from everything I’ve read (and I’ve tried to read everything), the event was considerably worse than my worst expectations. The many conversations I’ve had with friends who took part confirmed that impression.

As one who can only imaginatively reconstruct what took place through the experiences of others, I get the sense that no one, except the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC) was prepared for what was about to go down. The Atlantic Jewish Council and its adherents arrived fully prepared with but one agenda, to defeat any motion that would limit their participation in and access to Halifax Pride’s Parade and Community Fair and their right to display and offer pamphlets promoting Israel as tourist haven for LGBTQ people.

There was every indication beforehand that they were taking the meeting very seriously. A full week before the meeting, the AJC was publicly offering free transportation and child care for people voting with their bloc. They were also offering to pay membership dues for their voters.

To counter this, a campus group affiliated with the Palestinian cause offered similar benefits. People like myself scrambled to get out the word that the the dues were a purely voluntary contribution and calling on both sides to disengage from practices that had. at the least, the appearance  of vote buying. In canceling the voluntary donation, Halifax Pride did the right thing.

The AJC arrived with talking points and a vocal support group that repeatedly ignored calls to order by the Chair. Unused to a large and divided crowd (30 people attended last year’s AGM,;ten times that number were at the meeting on October 5). Pride had no mechanisms in place to discipline or eject members who were unruly.

The noisy disruptions, the lack of provision for proper discussion time, a series of conflicting, mutually exclusive resolutions, voting by show of hands rather than by secret ballot and/or ranked ballot all contributed to the divisiveness  and feelings of usurpation on the part of the Queer/Trans Community.

Even Roberts Rules of Order seemed to support a feeling of white, privilege and Eurocentric forms of governance shutting out Black , indigenous voices and those of Queer/Trans People of Colour. Looking at it from the outside and with hindsight, the meeting had every appearance of a successful Coup d’Etat, and El Jones was correct to name it as such in her account for the Halifax Examiner.

In the planning and conduct of its AGM Halifax Pride miscalculated and, despite the warning signs, failed to anticipate the impending danger. They assumed the meeting would be their’s to control. Together with NSRAP, they could not imagine that anyone could object to the benign guidelines for inclusion and diversity that they had jointly developed. Together they misjudged the  focused putpose of the AJC who clearly saw this as a contest, one they were determined to win.

I cannot blame either of the current boards  of Halifax Pride or NSRAP for the outcome.  The AJC and its bloc stuck to their strategy; listening to our community, was not a part of that plan. The sad reality is that our LGBTQI2S+ community organizations were outflanked and outgunned.

In considering the conduct of some of the AJC's supporters, it's crucial to to recognize the reality of anti-semitism and in particular Canada’s abysmal record on that front. The atavistic fear that a ban on pro-Israeli materials at a Queer/Trans Community Fair In Halifax is the prelude to a new Kristallnacht may seem farfetched to some, but perhaps not to someone whose mother bore a lifelong tattoo from the “straight, white men” at Auschwitz.

Disagreeing with the policies of the Isreali Government under Benjamin Netanyahu, however. should not brand one as an anti-semite. I disagree with fellowWayves contributor,  Malcolm Norton, on this matter,  I do not believe that either Queer Arabs of Halifax or NSRAP were motivated in any way by racism.

The best article I’ve read on the AGM was published in the Dalhousie Gazette by Alex Rose, a “proud” member of the local Jewish Community. They went to AGM to the speak and vote against the QAH Resolution.

Why the Best?  Because it is the least rancorous, the least reactionary, the most open, honest and heartfelt. The hurt and disappointment are tangible. I daresay they're shared by many:

“I would have been disappointed in the process even if I agreed with the results. The process created a divide between my Jewish community, which I have spent my entire life participating in and contributing to, and communities I care about, the LGBTQ2+ and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour communities, ones that share in our values and could use our support.

We as a community did not act in good faith last night. We assumed the worst about another community. We took over their meeting and turned a safe space into a hostile one – to all of our detriments.

We should have taken Halifax Pride at their word when a member of the LGBTQ2+ community asked us at the very beginning of the meeting to listen to each other. But we didn’t, and now we are all worse off for it.”

Author's Note: This is the second in a series of aricles on the AGM. Part 3 will explore the history of Palestinan advocacy and the LGBTQ movement in the context of Toronto and Halifax Prides.





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