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Banned from Toronto Pride, controversial men’s rights group walks in York Region’s pride parade

Pride York Fest’s co-ordinator said he hadn’t received complaints about the Canadian Association for Equality, a group denounced by critics as anti-feminist and misogynist, so he let them walk.
June 20, 2015
By Tara Deschamps

They might have been barred from marching in Toronto’s Pride Parade, but organizers of a similar event in York Region gave a controversial men’s rights group the green light to participate in their parade Saturday.

Just days after Pride Toronto’s dispute resolution process banned the group from forthcoming celebrations, the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) - a group denounced by critics for being anti-feminist and misogynist - were peacefully walking the streets of Richmond Hill for Pride York Fest.

Dave Williams, the event’s co-ordinator, said he was aware that CAFE’s potential Pride involvement had sparked concern in Toronto, but he wasn’t going to stop them from taking part in the York event because he hadn’t received any complaints about the group.

Plus he pointed out, “We do have two groups in our parade specifically for women. If we were to have a policy that says groups for any one gender are problematic, then those women’s groups would have to go. We don’t believe that would be fair.”

And so the nine-person CAFE contingent, including a handful of women, marched, sandwiched between contingents from the federal and provincial Liberal parties as well as a local newspaper.

Few who lined Yonge St. between Crosby Ave. and Vern Dynes Way batted an eye when CAFE members doled out buttons and leaflets advertising their group, aimed at improving the status, health and well-being of boys and men.

Those who whistled and danced as the parade wound past them seemed oblivious to the controversy that had been swirling in Toronto around the group that professes to be a “men’s issues educational charity.”

“It’s not that men’s issues are more important than other people’s issues, it’s that they are relevant,” said Justin Trottier, CAFE’s executive director.

He told the Star the group was “so excited” to participate in the parade because the group’s “principles and values are the principles and values of the LGBT community, certainly of the Pride Parade.”

He dismissed accusations of having an anti-feminist agenda as being “knee jerk decisions about our motives ... generally made in ignorance of the facts.” He urged critics to become familiar with CAFE’s work for men and boys before jumping to conclusions.

It was those rash conclusions, he said, that sparked arbitrator Paul Bent to rule in favour of keeping the group from marching in Toronto’s event.

Not wanting to comment on the decision, Trottier said that CAFE has “every intention” of participating in future Pride Toronto events.

In response to CAFE’s participation in the York Region festivities, Pride Toronto’s executive director Mathieu Chantelois told the Star only that Pride Toronto “would like to put this arbitration behind (them).”