“#StraightWhitePride Wins Again”

The short version of what happened at the Halifax Pride Society’s AGM is that cisgendered straight people organized to vote down motions by LGBTQ+ people, leading to the walkout of most of the BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Colour) community and many members of the Queer and Trans community.

Because Pride bylaws allow anybody to register for the meeting and vote, an overwhelming straight majority (who openly booed LGBTQ+ speakers who pointed out that cisgendered, straight white people were voting down and silencing queer people) was able to flood the meeting. LGBTQ+ people only make up 5% of the population in Canada, so non Queer and Trans groups will always be able to outvote members of the community.

The result was that not only was the Queer Arabs of Halifax motion on pinkwashing voted down, but people who are not members of the gay community also voted down a motion by the only provincial advocacy group for LGBTQ+ people advocating that the LGBTQ+ community be able to set guidelines to determine the direction and content of Pride.

But more on that later.

The contentious point of the evening, leading to a turnout of over 400 people, was the motion by the Queer Arabs of Halifax that Pride identify and remove pinkwashing content – content from governments or corporations that uses LGBTQ+ friendly content to gloss over human rights violations or corporate misconduct.


The Atlantic Jewish Council mobilized against the resolution, ” offering to shuttle supporters to the meeting and vote against the resolution. The group’s even offering free food and childcare to whoever can make it out on Wednesday. Likewise, supporters of the QAH (such as Dalhousie’s Students for Justice in Palestine) are organizing similar initiatives.” (See link for background on the leadup to the meeting.)

The ballroom at the Marriott was packed.

A run down of the night.

1) The debate:

It is agreed that people won’t clap the speakers, both to move the night along and to try to prevent tension in the room.

At 7:45 the resolution is read. The speaker from QAH says that the resolution is not targeting local groups or their participation, but is specifically directed at international governments who violated humanitarian law. He says that many members of his community feel “isolated and marginalized.” He speaks about growing up in a refugee camp and hearing Israeli drones, “targeting the lives of queer Palestinians.”

A long debate follows. Speakers from the Atlantic Jewish Council and other members of the Jewish community speak about the importance of Israel to their identity, and their sense that the resolution targets Jewish people. Other speakers who also identify themselves as Jewish counter this view, arguing that the resolution isn’t targeting Jewish groups or any local community, but only the materials from the Size Doesn’t Matter campaign and other advertising.

Independent Jewish Voices, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Youth for Equality speak in favour of the resolution. The latter has already drawn the ire of the Jewish Defence League:


Other speakers from the Jewish community throughout the night share their experiences of being Holocaust survivors or experiencing oppression in other countries. Some speakers emphasize that the Jewish community and Pride share values, and that dialogue is important to move forward.

Early in the debate a person who is a member of both the LGBTQ+ community and a board member of the Atlantic Jewish Council suggests the resolution be amended to “remove all the words that say Size Doesn’t Matter and replace it with Jewish community.” This is ruled out of order as it is not germane to the resolution. And as it would literally make the resolution anti-Jewish.

One speaker from the LGBTQ+ community congratulates the crowd: “It’s great that so many people chose tonight to come out of the closet!”

Jim Spatz speaks about growing up with parents who were Holocaust survivors. He says the contrast between Canada and the experience of oppression is “profound.”

One stream of rhetoric that emerges in the debate is that Canada is a wonderful place where equality exists. “We are all Canadians” is repeated. This is challenged by Indigenous members of the community, who point out that they do not identify as Canadian, that they are Mi’kmaq and are only Canadian by law.

At this point, someone points out that there are four resolutions on the floor, which cancel each other out. The QAH resolution asks for the removal of pinkwashing materials. Kevin Kindred’s resolution promotes free speech at Pride. People point out that if one set of resolution passes, it affects the other. If they vote for one that says no censorship and one that says no pinkwashing, what do they do?

NSRAP submit a petition from 503 members standing in solidarity with QAH.

The AJC protests the petition, saying it contains information that is not factual such as saying the Israeli government is funding the Size Doesn’t Matter campaign and calling the booth “Tel Aviv tourism” when it is not.

Later in the night, members from the AJC will call the booth the “tourism” booth.

Things are getting more tense now, with people yelling “TIME!” to cut off speakers. It is suggested it is usual to let people finish their sentences.

A Queer Jewish speaker expresses that they feel “like they have to choose a side.”

Someone says Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Gay people can live freely without persecution.

There is a resolution at this point to acknowledge that snapping is a form of clapping and to stop snapping as well.


John Hutton speaks and points out that the materials at the booth have no mention of groups representing Queer Palestinians and that they should be centring the voices of oppressed groups, not speaking for them.

Another speaker says she is a bisexual Jewish woman and it’s important that Jewish adolescents feel safe at Pride as well.

Ardath Whynacht from NSRAP points out that Tel Aviv activists themselves threatened to cancel Pride and that this motion is in solidarity with them. She also speaks about the number of racist and anti-immigration trolls NSRAP and other queer people in support of the resolution have been receiving, and particularly the abuse they have been receiving from the Jewish Defense League, classified as a “far right extremist group” by the FBI in 2001.

Although some speakers tell Queer Arab members that they “would be killed” in any Muslim countries (emphasizing Muslim extremists) there is no denunciation of the JDL at the meeting.

Kevin Kindred speaks, saying that people should stop telling Queer Arabs how they should respond or feel.

There is a discussion about how free speech is not absolute, as long as the limits are justified.

It is now 8:30.

Cathy Walsh speaks, saying the most important thing is to produce a Pride Festival that is free of debt and fiscally responsible, and that making the Festival accessible to all is what pays the bills, and that the acronym LGBTQ+ also includes allies.

“No, it doesn’t!” Someone yells.

QAH closes the debate, emphasizing that this is an issue of social justice, and that they encourage other groups to come forward to identify other forms of pinkwashing at Pride.

The vote is held. There is a call for a count.

The motion is defeated 210 against, 106 for.

Anti-pink washing motion defeated by a sea of hands from straight white cisgendered members of the AJC

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 5, 2016

There is clapping.

2) The aftermath:

After the motion is defeated, someone yells “Straight White Pride wins again!”

Most of the BIPOC community walks out in protest. #straightwhitepride is a hashtag.

Overwhelmingly the queer and trans vote was in FAVOUR of the @QueerArabsHFX motion

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 5, 2016

Members of the LGBTQ+ community at this point try to call “orders of the day,” a point in Roberts Rules about if a meeting doesn’t adhere to the stated times on the agenda, it should be disbanded. Members of the Queer community speak about how it would be more appropriate to discuss the resolutions in a meeting among the community, that the room is not a safe space for Queer people, and that to vote on the board when a number of Queer people have left, and LGBTQ+ people are outnumbered in the room makes them uncomfortable.

Other people point out they have work, childcare, and other obligations, and that it’s unfair to continue to hold the meeting when many people can’t participate. The meeting was supposed to be over at 8:30 and it is after 9:15.

At this point, it turns out that despite people using Roberts Rules all night, Halifax Pride doesn’t actually operate using Roberts Rules, and the way the meeting is run is actually up to the chair. Someone calls a point of order to point this out, which would presumably mean nothing if Roberts Rules aren’t being used in the first place.

The meeting will continue.

The next resolution under discussion is Kevin Kindred’s resolution on free speech at Pride.


The meeting is becoming increasingly contentious now. One woman says she doesn’t feel comfortable electing the board with this audience, and another woman yells, “that’s disrespectful!” Straight white cisgendered people are taking offence at being referred to as straight, white, and cisgendered.

Ardath Whynacht is booed loudly for speaking about the racism she has experienced from the (self-identified) “Zionist”community, (JDL in particular) and asking straight, white, cisgendered people to refrain from voting in a space that isn’t theirs.


At this point two straight white men repeatedly aggesssively shove their hands in the face of Ardath. I intervene asking them to please stop waving off and silencing a Queer woman. One of them shoves his hand in my face and tells me to shut up. I inform him that is rude, and to stop sticking his hand in the face of Queer women and Women of Colour. He laughs and tells me to “stop it” while continuing to shove his hand in my face.

This is the meeting now.

Keep in mind that a motion resolving that LGBTQ+ people determine guidelines around safe spaces, and particularly around spaces that are inclusive of BIPOC, will be defeated. And these men will vote against safe spaces for Queer people and People of Colour.

Jewish Defense League is happy we are outnumbered by straight white ppl @RWJBoon check this pls pic.twitter.com/zlhevHXhh9

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 6, 2016

The Jewish Defense League has compared Gay people to Nazis.

There is a motion to amend Kevin Kindred’s resolution to add that expression at Pride must affirm international humanitarian law.

Now there is an argument over the meaning of “affirm” and humanitarian law.

Respecting international humanitarian law is defeated.

Some speakers argue that “free speech” actually means that the “loudest voices win” and that free speech without limits ends up silencing the most marginalized people in the community. Somebody asks, is the KKK allowed to march if they distribute LGBTQ+ friendly materials?

Hmmm, I wonder if white people would be chill if POC started setting up booths with anti-white material. Free Expression and all.

Throughout the night, people have consistently told QAH and other POC that Canada is “inclusive” that there is free speech here, that they need to leave their disputes at home, that they see their pain, but what’s really needed is conversation. And yet:


The resolution for free expression passes.

At this point the Executive Director from the AJC moves that since the pinkwashing motion has been defeated, and the free expression resolution has been passed, that NSRAP should withdraw their resolution as it is redundant. AJC will also remove theirs.


Ardath Whynacht points out, incredulous, that NSRAP is the only provincial advocacy organization representing LGBTQ+ people, and that we are now moving to not hear their resolution. At the Pride meeting.

I was booed – yet again- for mentioning all the straight white ppl who are here tonight at @HalifaxPride AGM

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 6, 2016

Straight white men in the room are consistently booing, waving off, or interrupting women, as they did to POC when they were still in the meeting.


Now there is debate over the preamble for the NSRAP resolution and the “whereas” clauses. Members keep pointing out that preambles are never voted on and that it is the action points of the resolution that are being voted on.

Freedom of expression is supported. Except NSRAP motion- AJC wants to censor all preamble

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 6, 2016

Kevin Kindred speaks in support of the NSRAP resolution, arguing that it is extremely important for the future direction of the LGBTQ+ community. Members of the LGBTQ+ community ask people who are not LGBTQ+ to please refrain from voting and to allow the community to determine its own direction.

Kevin asks people who are at their “first and last” Pride AGM to not vote. Unlike women/woman identified speakers pointing out the same thing, he is not booed, yelled at, or shushed.

Someone speaks in favour of @NSRAP saying if this motion doesn’t pass she doesn’t even know where @HalifaxPride is going to go

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 6, 2016

Overwhelmingly, the LGBTQ+ people in the room are speaking in favour of the resolution.

It is voted down.

Let’s review: largely straight religious organization votes down motion by Prov. LGBTQ2 advocacy org and @HalifaxPride accepts this

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 6, 2016

The chair from Halifax Pride says that they worked with NSRAP on the resolution, and that discussion of guidelines will continue. “This doesn’t mean the motion is defeated.” Except, according to the democratic process being used, it does.

The AJC removes their motion from discussion.

Director of AJC claims she wants to work with @NSRAP in future to develop guidelines. AJC claps. 4 queers left in room

— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) October 6, 2016

The meeting ends with the elections to the board. Somebody points out that everyone vying for election is white. Another speaker says if People of Colour wanted to be on the board, they should have come to the meeting.

Virtually every single BIPOC member walked out in protest hours ago.


I suppose people will say this is a biased write-up. It was impossible to be a woman and person of colour in that room and not feel the intense hostility. White men literally shoved their hands in my face and told me to shut up at this meeting. That is going to impact one’s experience. It would also be impossible to be in allyship with Queer People of Colour and not acknowledge why they left, and what the atmosphere was that prompted a walkout. Much more important than my experience is that of the many BIPOC queer people who took to social media to express how violent and harmful the meeting felt to them.


Reports simply saying that “the QAH motion on pinkwashing was defeated” don’t capture the issues around processes that allow people who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community to vote, nor the intense alienation felt by QPOC because of this meeting. Anti-immigration sentiment, racist trolls, women being aggressively silenced, LGBTQ+ people being censored and voted down, and a “far right extremist group” spamming the social media of LGBTQ+ people, were all things that happened around the AGM.

I can understand that for people who associate Jewish identity with Israel — as speakers expressed at the meeting — they had strong feelings about the QAH motion. Those in favour of the motion consistently emphasized that it was targeting pinkwashing, that local Jewish groups were encouraged to participate and to provide materials about resources for Queer Jewish people, and that other groups should bring forward other examples of pinkwashing as well. But it’s clear that for many who organized against the resolution, they felt targeted. I also understand that the AJC cautioned members attending the meeting to respect the space.

However, there were significant numbers of people in the space who openly disrespected BIPOC, who snorted and shushed when people talked about racism, who hand waved women, and who left LGBTQ+ people in tears. It’s hard to construe that as allyship to LGBTQ+ people.

When Black Lives Matter halted the Toronto Pride Parade, they sparked discussion around the exclusion of People of Colour and racism in the LGBTQ+ movement. Halifax Pride had the opportunity at this meeting to listen to voices of People of Colour, to build safe and inclusive spaces that POC feel comfortable participating in, and to heal the negative and racist experiences many POC have had in the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, many instead walked out of the meeting, feeling more alienated and unsafe.

The meeting ended around 11PM.

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Well pull my lips off…looks like a bunch of people….must be some sorta….is there some kinda parade on or something?

  2. I am appalled and despairing about this meeting report and about the continual harassment women and people of colour get every bloody where they go. Re: Israel being a human rights supporting state, I can only snort. If I could, I’d put my hand on the person’s shoulder and shush them, gently gently.
    My trans son avoids pride. Back when he was a lesbian, I used to go to Pride to indicate support for them and the right to be what you were. He told me then that Pride is largely a vehicle for white homosexuals, and reinforced the white male power dynamic, so therefore he wound’t support it.
    That was some time ago and I imagine things are more inclusive of trans folks and such, but I do still wonder about women and people of colour, and this meeting tells me there are still too many bad things left to offer my support.
    This hacking of meetings happens often by religious groups. Here, the Jewish people in support of Israel (who should, really, be ashamed of themselves), hijacked the meeting; in rural Ontario, fundamentalist Christians hijack the hospital boards and ban abortions. In each case the people involved mob the meetings and ruin any discussion. There must be a way to prevent this happening, while respecting free speech.
    It is true that accepting sponsorships from banks et al is also dancing with the devil, (and pink washing) as it were. If sponsorships are needed, there should be a look for balance, and a request that any materials present in a respectful way.
    Obviously this didn’t happen at the meeting.
    Thanks for the report El and for making it available, Tim. Will spread widely.

  3. splitters! – sounds like a scene from Life of Brian. Israel is gay-friendly, so why not have travel literature at the booth. If another Middle Eastern country wants to have their own travel literature touting the welcoming nature of their country for LGBT folks go for it. inclusion, not exclusion or we will end up with a parade of one, everyone else having been banned for one reason or another.
    not jewish, lesbian and old enough to remember pre-pride days.

    1. This would be true if the intent was to ban people, it isn’t. It was to ban distribution of materials deemed harassing to the QAH. If they truly wanted to be inclusive, the AJC would have agreed that it was in poor taste to do and they would stop going forward. Instead, they accused the group and the people who support them of antisemitism and took over the Pride AGM and forced THEIR views on to Halifax Pride membership, of which I am sure they will remain and be active.

      The concept of older, white, straight, religious people taking over a Gay rights organisations agenda is pretty insane. Imagine if it were Catholics, this would be a National story about how the Catholic church took over Pride. Instead we are having these completely inaccurate arguments of inclusion. I have to say, this whole thing has made me realize that it isn’t how valid your argument is sometimes. Just how you can frame the debate. The substance could be complete BS, so long as you have the right message.

  4. Sounds a lot like Student Union politics, a great of heat and posturing which accomplishes nothing.
    It would be well for us all to remember that human rights advocacy in the world has long been a cornerstone of life for Jewish people and to a much greater extent than adherents of other faiths.

  5. I have to be measured in my replying for political reasons but I wanted to say thank you for the re-cap of the event and I thought this was a great review of the situation. And I usually disagree with about 80% of what you say, El, so I guess this is abnormal LOL.

    Due to said reasons, I also did not attend (though followed it through twitter). When I usually go to events where I am not on either side, though I may have an opinion, I usually make myself Switzerland and force people to be civil. I cannot believe the disrespect shown to you and Ardath (et. al). I wish I was there so I could have stood between the two factions and avoid the ugliness of the interactions. I am big and ugly enough to make someone think twice before disrespecting me, especially with hands in my face. After the first time, I would be very clear the second one yields a broken hand or an ambulance ride.

    Mama taught me respect is not granted, it’s earned. And all women earn enough by default to not be belittled or have their space invaded. Sorry you had to endure such disrespect. And sorry Pride got Hijacked.

  6. Please don’t confuse Jewish people with white people just because they have white skin. They like to identify as their own separate race when it suits them, and white people (meaning the indigenous inhabitants of Europe in this context) when it’s convenient.

  7. this resolution was out of order because it basically targeted one group. it probably doesn’t help that the resolution was put forward by one group that has a well documented history of not getting along with the other. (and vise versa). i suspect the larger interest in this issue was primarily due to the overarching Jewish Arab conflict, and had little to do with pride.

    but if you haven’t noticed, pride is all about pinkwashing.
    The Banks, the Politicians, the unions, Halcon, business, etc are all trying to market themselves/thier products or services to the LGBTQI community. the Parade in particular has its roots as a small protest march, but is now arguably the best parade in Halifax. It has the most expensive entry fee to participate in it, and the benefit is that participants get seen in a very positive light (people have a good time/support inclusion YAY!!). promoting tourism to Israel in my mind is no different then a bank handing out Mortgage literature, the premier/mla’s waving liberal signs, or halcon waking a tardis down the street.

    I think its a valid discussion point if you feel pride is to commercial, and want to change its direction, but then the pinkwashing motion shouldn’t have focused on one group’s marketing materials, and then sought to ban any corporate branding at all. If a Bank, Union, Politician, business wants to participate, they can without their corporate identity or marketing materials being used. It would be a far more credible show of support to march because its right, not because it shows the brand.

    1. YES. This is the argument that’s been building in my head since I first heard about the pink washing campaign. Why seek to exclude a group with ties to the Jewish community and naively wade into the complicated politics of Israel and Palestine while also justifying the inclusion of police floats and corporate sponsorship? There is an inconsistency here that undermines the pink washing initiative.

      FWIW, I say this as a genuine queer and trans person who came out 25+ years ago. I’m practically an elder. *snort*

      I suggest that Pride, the organization, has lost its legitimacy. LGBQT people with an interest in returning the parade to its activist roots ought to work with Rad Pride or create a new organization to work on alternatives.

  8. There were several things that could have been done to prevent this prior to the meeting, and it was pretty clear that it was coming.

    It’s a real tragedy, and a slap in the face to LGBTQ people and POC.

    I wonder if the organization will be able to recover from this…