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Zimmerman: A Fairly Odd Councilor: Mammoliti and the use of anti-Discrimination to Discriminate

July 7, 2011

Giorgio Mammoliti filming women at the Dyke March 2011

This week I have decided to give international politics a rest this and write about a more local issue—a particularly bizarre and arguably offensive city councilor who represents a nearby ward in North York (northern part of Toronto, Ontario).  This councilor was caught at this past weekend’s PRIDE festivities in downtown Toronto filming the Dyke March.  His name is Giorgio Mammoliti, and he is considered to be one of new right-wing populist mayor Rob Ford’s key allies despite once being called the racist slur “Gino-Boy” by Ford.  On policies the two men often see eye to eye.  This is odd considering Mammoliti’s political past.

Mammoliti began his political career in the New Democratic Party in (my former) riding of Yorkview (the area near York University) and won his riding in 1990, becoming an MPP in Bob Rae’s NDP government of Ontario.  He quickly became known for his social conservatism, leading the charge against Bill 167 in 1994-5.  This bill was introduced by Ontario’s Attorney General and if it had been passed would have allowed same-sex common law couples to share in the same benefits and obligations as opposite sex common law couples.  He is quoted, in his time as legislature, as saying:

“I want to ask you this question and I want to ask all of you very clearly. In the Ministry of Health statistics from 1981 to the end of 1993, the total reported cases of AIDS were 3,712: 272 were heterosexuals, 107 were blood transfusions, 114 persons contacted it through drug use and 3,190 were homosexuals. Those statistics are frightening to me. Some will argue that they may not be true. Phone the Ministry of Health and find out whether or not they are. I’m pretty frightened by those statistics. That leads me to believe that it is pretty prevalent in the homosexual community. Another question: whether or not some of you now find it acceptable behaviour. I don’t.”

This puts some things into perspective considering his latest instance of obscene behaviour towards the queer community, but before I get into more details on that matter, I wish to highlight some of the other strange things he’s said and done in the past.  In 2007, now as a city councilor, he called for the Canadian army to come into the troubled Jane and Finch neighbourhood to stop gangs, which he likened to terrorists.  I am not kidding here.   I wonder what this military “intervention” would look like.  Perhaps there would be checkpoints on the more dangerous neighbourhoods, or soldiers and tanks patrolling the streets at night.  It’s pretty frightening when this kind of language comes from an elected official and gives insight into the inner workings of the mind of one such as Giorgio Mammoliti.

Earlier this year Mammoliti proposed to turn Centre Island—a family-oriented amusement park/community parkland—into a red light district with a casino and brothels.  He reasoned that it would bring much needed money to the city’s coffers.  He has made claims that on Hanlan’s Point, a clothing optional beach, prostitution was already taking place although this has shown to be unfounded.

So, I’ve already explained some of the ways that makes Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti quite…well, odd.  His latest stint involves some so-called controversy with the Pride Parade and a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (or QuAIA).  Now before people start commenting in the comment section to this article with standard questions: “Wait a minute, isn’t Israel the best place in the world for gays?” or “Wait a second, aren’t Palestinians all a homophobic race?” or whatever, I’m going to place a link here where you can read QuAIA’s FAQ section on their website.

I wrote this article not to touch upon the Israel/Palestine issue, as I often end up doing, but rather to focus on the actions of our councilor in question.  So, as I was saying, Mammoliti and other councilors supportive of the mayor have been talking about cutting public funding to PRIDE for some time now.  Of course when fighting the gravy train I imagine Ford and his ilk mean cutting support for internationally renowned festivities that bring in large amounts of money into the city’s economy.  Their major reason, at least publicly, for wanting to cut funding to PRIDE has been because of the presence of QuAIA.  Certain councilors have objected that it goes against the city of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy.  A city report recently found that the term ‘Israeli Apartheid’ does not constitute discriminatory speech at all.

This didn’t stop Mammoliti from going down to the Dyke March, an event that takes place before the actual major parade, with a camera.  He got some random sights of pro-Palestinian marchers and anti-occupation slogans and is now presenting it as a rationale for cutting PRIDE funding.  Now, it might just be me, but I think that no matter how one feels about Israel/Palestine, or about LGBT issues in general, one must find these actions abhorrent on many levels.

Firstly, there is the optics of it all.  This is a march of openly gay women, many of whom may have faced alienation in the past because of their sexuality, who have decided to come out publicly in their sexuality.  Some women couples kiss and make-out or whatnot during this march.  So, some middle-aged man comes out of nowhere and starts filming the whole thing….can anyone see why that is wrong?  Inappropriate doesn’t begin to describe this.  This is quite frankly very creepy to say the least.  Secondly the whole idea of an event like the Dyke March is that it’s meant to be safe space where people can freely express themselves.  Again, no matter how one feels about this issue, do his actions not come across as spitting on the people involved?  I mean, really!  Are we going to be having city councilors go around filming private citizens in their personal space at Caribbana or Afro-Fest next, simply because some of the people involved might do or say things that Giorgio doesn’t approve of?

But I ask, how much is this about Israel/Palestine?  Considering things Mammoliti has said in the past in regards to gays, might it have more to do with his feelings towards the LGBT community than anything else?  Perhaps this Israel/Palestine issue and Mammoliti’s opposition to it and accusations of “hate speech” is nothing short of a red herring.  Perhaps his real problem is with the LGBT community.  PRIDE emerged in Toronto during an era where gay bathhouses were being raided by police and gays were blamed for the AIDS virus.  It has grown since and has always been by its very nature very political.  To see people going out of their way to attack PRIDE, particularly in such awkward, intrusive, and frankly disgusting ways as Mammoliti has done this past weekend, truly makes one question what the real underlying agenda of the people who take these kind of actions really are.  As for Mammoliti himself, he has shown his true colours (and they are not a rainbow).

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 9:21 pm

    Spot on. Mammoliti will grasp at any weak reason to shut down Pride.

  2. Adam permalink
    July 7, 2011 10:00 pm

    Excellent analysis of the issue and free of the acrimonious tone that has taken over this whole sordid Mammoliti affair. Great blog too… happy to have stumbled upon it.

  3. July 7, 2011 11:03 pm

    Mammoliti really has a special place in my heart. The dark part where I interrogate people I don’t like using “enhanced” methods.

  4. July 7, 2011 11:06 pm

    When I heard Mammoliti was at the Dyke March, I kind of squirmed in my seat. The Dyke MArch is heavily political and while men are okay at places like the Dyke March, it’s only okay if you’re an ally to the community and not seeking to destroy it.

  5. July 7, 2011 11:21 pm

    he’s completely spitting over the concept of positive space. Whether one agrees with that term or not, it is simply disrespectful to barge in and blatantly spit on something that’s important to people.

  6. July 9, 2011 4:45 pm

    Whatever his point of view, city councilors aren’t supposed to be found acting as provocateurs against minority groups. He should be fired and the guy who should have fired him by now should also be fired.

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