06/30/2012 12:41 EDT | Updated 08/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to march at Toronto Pride

A group that has stirred controversy at previous Toronto Pride parades has been given permission to march in this year's event.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will take part in Sunday's parade through the downtown, an arm's length panel decided on Friday.

"Pride Toronto is aware of the politically and emotionally sensitive nature of this issue for all parties involved," Luka Amona, co-chair of Pride Toronto's board, said in a statement. "In line with the ruling of the Dispute Resolution Panel, and Pride Toronto’s stated commitment to abide by the outcome of the process, the Board of Directors will respect the DRP’s decision and will authorize a permit for QuAIA to march in this year’s Pride parade."

The dispute resolution panel was created last year to deal with complaints about groups participating in the parade. B'nai Brith had complained about the group's participation and a hearing was held earlier this week.

Justine Apple of Kulanu Toronto, a Jewish LGBT organization, said she's disappointed with the decision and that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has "hijacked" the parade.

"The kind of messaging that they display during the parade is very hateful," she said. "Using a certain word, I'm not going to mention that word, because I think it's obvious it shouldn't be part of the Pride parade. It has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with gay values."

Last year, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid said they would sit out the 2011 parade because it didn’t want to give Mayor Rob Ford and his allies a pretext to cut Pride’s funding. Instead, the group unfurled a 12-metre-wide banner from atop a subway station along the route. It read, “Support Palestinian queers, boycott Israeli tourism.”

In a report released in April 2011, Toronto’s city manager found that the term "Israeli apartheid" does not violate Toronto's anti-discrimination policy, the Criminal Code’s provisions on hate speech or the Ontario Human Rights Code, and that the inclusion of QuAIA in the Pride parade should have no bearing on whether the festival itself receives funding.

Millions pumped into Toronto

The latest controversy isn't likely to affect most of the approximately 1.2 million people that celebrate Pride in Toronto. The 10-day celebration is estimated to pump tens of millions into the local economy.

Amona said the last economic survey they did, in 2009, showed that $136 million in economic activity is generated by the event.

One person noticeably absent from the festivities is Mayor Rob Ford, who hasn't attended any Pride events since taking office two years ago. He did, however, make a surprise appearance at a flag-raising to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in May.

Ford did not attend the Pride flag-raising ceremony earlier this week, saying he had other, unspecified commitments. The mayor has also said he will not take part in Sunday's parade and will instead spend his Canada Day weekend at his cottage.