Doug Elliott interview

Doug Elliott, AM 640 interview (autoplaying sound), 2016.07.04.

Transcription starts ≈1:14. (Posted 2016.07.11, 2016.07.13.)

INTERVIEWER: Doug, were you at the Pride parade yesterday?

ELLIOTT: I was indeed. I came with my family, actually, because we wanted to make a statement after Orlando that we were not afraid, and that we had confidence that Toronto police would provide us with adequate protection, and they did. Uh, there was threats made against the parade and the prime minister in particular. And, uh, there were no attacks made by ISIS. But, lo and behold, the parade was disrupted by our “honoured guests.”

[Discussion of any honoured group’s position or sequence in the parade elided]

INTERVIEWER: So with the threats that you just mentioned about, you know, the prime minister’s safety and the parade, do you think it was irresponsible for Black Lives Matter to pretty much hijack the parade with a, uh, un— It was un— It was pretty much unpublished. Like, they didn’t even tell anybody in Pride Toronto that this was gonna go down – a sit-in?

ELLIOTT: Right. I think it is the most reprehensible thing I’ve seen. I’ve been at every parade since 1981, and this is the most disgusting disruption of the Pride parade. So homophobes have treated us better than these people did. Uh, it was a complete betrayal. Uh, I was – I’m very concerned about, you know, they brought smoke grenades to the parade. Imagine the people who are still reeling from Orlando seeing grenades being let off, and smoke. It must have been terrifying.

And, uh, you know, in the past, they-they denounced Pride Toronto as racist. Well, if they think they’re racist, why did they accept the invitation? I mean, in the past, people who have had problems with Pride Toronto, when they’ve been invited to be grand marshal or honoured group, they’ve said “No, I disagree with your organization. I won’t do it.” And that’s what you do. You don’t show u— lie, which is what they did. Because they are required – if they’re gonna participate in the parade – because I helped draw these rules up.

— OK.

— They are required to agree to abide by the rules that are laid down for – by Pride Toronto for the parade. And if they have a problem with the way the parade is organized, they are supposed to use the Dispute Resolution Process that we set up. But instead, they decided that they were going to selfishly take over. I can tell you, I was standing there. I was nearly passing out from the heat. There were little kids who had to leave the parade. There were old people who were fainting. There were, uh, handicapped people who were roasting. But these selfish people didn’t care about any of that. They just cared about getting headlines for themselves.

— We’re talking with Doug Elliott, who’s a gay-rights lawyer, and he’s a recipient of Pride Toronto’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In the past, uh, you have been on the council as well at Pride Toronto as well, is that correct? [She said “been on the council.” It’s not clear whether she meant “you’ve been counsel for” or “you’ve been on the board of.”]

— Uh, no, I was on something called the Community Advisory Panel?

— OK.

— It was a group of community elders that were set up to deal with problems people had with Pride Toronto. You remember the group QuAIA with the controversy about them participating in the parade. And the black community was very pissed off, and they didn’t like the way they were being treated. And we engaged in a lengthy series of community consultations about how things should be run. And one of the things that we said was Pride Toronto should not be making any important decisions without consulting with the whole community. The whole community gets to decide what happens at Pride Toronto, not one group.

— OK, so I want to play something from earlier on. Tasha Kheiriddin, one of our hosts here, had a woman from Black Lives Matter on. Her name is Janaya Kha-Khan. I think she’s one of the co-fon-cofounders of Black Lives Matter. [Elliott mutters] Here’s what she had to say. I want to get your reaction to this, Doug.

KHAN (recorded): You know, people are saying, you know, we halted progress – we halted the progress of the march. I would say that we made progress. When we are creating platforms where things can be more inclusive, where there’s many voices heard at the table, I think that’s progress.

INTERVIEWER: Doug, what do you think about that?

ELLIOTT: She’s delusional. Uh, she said that – I was there in 1981 when we worked cooperatively with the black community to protest against, uh, police mistreatment of both communities. We recognized the problems that the black community is facing by inviting this group to be our honoured guests, and then they hijack our parade and blackmail our leaders. That’s progress? I’ve got news for you. I am going to be filing a complaint with our Dispute Resolution Process, and I’m gonna ask them – gonna be asking that these people be excluded from any further participation. [The actual term limit for a ban is two years.]

We have never been insulted and humiliated by an honoured guest, and people who are part of our own community. I understand that the leaders of this group are queer and trans people. They’re members of our community, and they’re treating us worse than homophobes treat us.

— Uh, so I’m guessing with what you said, you know, your rules laid out, and-and the process you go through if you, if you have a disagreement, the Pride executives, you know, were forced to, uh, sign that contract to get things running. This means nothing.

— Um, yeah, I don’t blame them. Yeah, I don’t – it’s fraud. It’s extortion. So, I’m a lawyer, and I can tell you any contract that’s signed under duress isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. So, I-I-I’m not – I don’t blame them for doing that, because they had only three choices: Let everyone die of heat exhaustion –

— Mm-hmm.

— Uh, sign it to get the parade moving; or ask the police to get involved in arrests.

— Which, I’m sure, that they would have – it would have been a colossal mistake.

— They would’ve loved it! Loved that!

— Oh, yeah! That’s what I was thinking. They – it would have been a big win.

— It would have been a biiig win for them. So I think they made the right choice. What I have a problem with with Pride Toronto is I’ve seen some comments from Pride Toronto suggesting that they thought that the way Black Lives Matter handled this was reasonable or in keeping with our tradition of civic, of, uh –

— Unrest.

— You know, of protest and so on. I’ve asked for clarification of that, because I’ve seen – I’ve only seen media reports. I would like to know directly from them if they think that this was reasonable. Because if they think this was reasonable, then they should be stepping down, because I can tell you, the people I’ve talked to in the gay community, from my young gay nephew who was there for his first Pride parade to elders like me, we were all horrified.

— Doug –

— Universally horrified. And I want to just, you know – the thing about police not being in the parade, I can tell you, when we did our community consultation, including with the black community, and that’s only three or four years ago. When we consulted with all aspects of the community, the-the Muslim community, the black community, the Jewish community, lesbians, gay men, no one, no one asked for the police to leave the parade. Not one person. This is the first time.

And they’re carrying on as if they speak for the whole queer community. Well, they don’t. They only speak for themselves.

— I want to, uh, because I’ve got you on the line, Doug, I want to play something else, because I know you’ve been there since the first march was put together, uh, after the bathhouse raids, so I want to get a little historical context here, uh, put to this. One of the – the same woman, “Jeenya” Khan, who was on the show earlier today –

— Yeah.

— uh, from Black Lives Matter, she had this to say about the Dyke March, so maybe you could provide a historical context and, uh, clarify this.

KHAN (recorded): I think that change is uncomfortable. And, 20 years ago, uh, the first Dyke March happened, and there was an incredible amount of pushback. Gay men were saying “Why should women have their own Pride? Uh, why should women who love women have their own Pride?” There was a lot of negative publicity as a result of that. Twenty years later, it’s an integral part of Pride as we understand it in Toronto and as it’s understood all over the world.

INTERVIEWER: So that Dyke March, that was separate from, from, uh, the Pride parade, correct?

ELLIOTT: Yes. There has always been a debate about, um, you know, how much inclusion do you have and how much, um, how-how much, uh, separate space do you have? You know, now there’s a separate Trans March as well. And now there’s also a night march, there’s a night march, which is people who don’t agree with the main parade. Well, if Black Lives Matter didn’t like the main parade, then they should have gone in the night march. There’s a space for them, right? We’re not creating – we’re – the point is if you’re going to a particular space, you know what the rules are. Like, I know, as a gay man, I’m not allowed in the Dyke March, and I’m OK with that. I know as a cisgendered man, I am welcomed as an ally at the Trans March, and I have marched in the Trans March even though I am not trans myself.

So you respect the space and you respect the rules. And for them to compare what they did with the debate over the Dyke March is ludicrous. I was there and I can tell you it was, yes, there was political discussion, but did gay men try to halt the Dyke March? Did we set off smoke grenades? Did we do – stage sit-ins to stop the lesbians from marching? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It’s preposterous. And, I mean, I was – I don’t know how old this woman was, but I can tell you, this isn’t something that I read in a history book. I lived through it.

— Yeah, Doug, that’s why we love you on this show, not just your eloquence and just, you know, telling it like it is, but I love that you provide a historical context that, you know, I don’t know though I, you know, am a Torontonian.