"Way to go mayor!" and "Good job, Mayor!" were only some of the accolades that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford received for unexpectedly showing up for a flag-raising event to support the gay community Thursday at city hall.
Since entering office, Mayor Rob Ford and the Toronto lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community haven’t had the greatest of relationships. Last year, the mayor captured headlines for weeks for not attending any Pride-related festivities and the gigantic parade that has been attended by former mayors Barbara Hall, Mel Lastman and David Miller.
On Thursday, Ford may have gained respect from the gay community after surprising everyone and attending a rainbow flag-raising event organized by the Toronto chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
City Councillor Gord Perks, with a band of fellow councillors behind him, speaks at a rainbow flag-raising event in Toronto at city hall.
PFLAG sent the mayor an invitation, but was told that he would not be attending because of his busy schedule. Nevertheless, Irene Miller, president of PFLAG Toronto, thanked the mayor for attending.
“I do thank the mayor for having taken the time to join us,” said Miller. “We truly appreciate that you have taken the time to be here today. We cannot get our message out there alone, but together we can make that message heard all across this city.”
When the mayor had his presence known, he received applause from the crowd, organizers and members of city council. One gentleman stopped to shake the mayor’s hand, while others started giving him pads on the back.
City Councillors Janet Davis (L) and Gord Perks speaking at a rainbow flag-raising event in Toronto at city hall.
Councillor Gord Perks was scheduled to represent Toronto and deliver the mayor’s proclamation. Instead, however, Perks introduced Ford, who then presented the proclamation for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
“Toronto is a society open to everyone, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, two sprit and transsexual LGBT community, who are an important part of this city’s diversity,” said Ford. “Toronto is an active participant in the fight to eliminate all forms of discrimination and is committed to equal treatment of all people and their right to live in conditions of dignity, respect and peace.”
Following the mayor’s proclamation, Councillors Janet Davis, whose son is gay, and Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is also openly gay, presented speeches, in which they thanked everyone for their support and explained the importance of events like Thursday’s.
City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam speaking at Toronto PFLAG rainbow flag-raising ceremony at city hall.
“If you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender I want you to know that Toronto’s city council stands with you and your family. We do so in our unwavering way to support the LGBT community as we fight and struggle for equality and dignity,” said the Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale rookie councillor. “May 17 was chosen for this day and for this event because on May 17, 1990, only 22 years ago, homosexuality was removed from the international proclamation of diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Ford left towards the end of the event. As the media followed the mayor and swarmed around him, he did not answer any questions from reporters. Ford and his aides went back into city hall.
The mayor has already confirmed that he will not be attending this year’s Pride Parade because he is spending time with his family at their cottage during Canada Day weekend. He did say, though, that he may attend Pride Week festivities ahead of the parade if his schedule permits it.
Toronto’s Pride Week will be held from Jun. 22 to July 1.