Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says won't be attending Pride parade this year, and the snub appears to suit organizers just fine. Based on a series of seemingly-homophobic comments made by Ford, the executive director of Pride Toronto says there may not be a place for him at this year’s World Pride event, anyway.
Kevin Beaulieu told Yahoo Canada News that he was surprised by Ford’s declaration, considering he had yet to send invitations to the event.
"We were a bit surprised because the invitations haven’t gone out yet, so it might be a bit presumptuous," Beaulieu said in a phone interview. “Nevertheless, when the invitations do go out, it has become a tradition for politicians, whether elected officials or candidates in an election year, to come to Pride to show their support for Toronto’s LGBTQ community.”
Pride events, of course, don’t make a habit of excluding people from their celebrations. In fact, the group has made overtures to Ford for the past three years, only to have them rejected.
But Beaulieu says some of Ford’s recent comments, captured on video, have made it apparent Ford has issues with homosexuals.
“We have some concerns about some of the language in one video we have seen and another that we haven’t. And there are some past comments that seem to empower homophobia and transphobia, so we would want to consider those,” he said.
What are the comments Beaulieu is referring to? In a video publicly released in January, a drunken Ford is heard derogatorily calling Police Chief Bill Blair a homophobic slur. Ford also allegedly called Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a "fag" in a crack video viewed by Toronto Star journalists last year.
A couple bonus quotes from the Ford archives:
- He said in 2005, "I don’t understand a transgender. I don’t understand: is it a guy dressed up like a girl or a girl dressed up like a guy?"
- He said in 2006, "If you’re not doing needles and you’re not gay, you won’t get AIDS probably."
Toronto will become the first North American city to host the World Pride this June. Toronto’s annual Pride event is attended by more than 1.2 million people and is a major boon for Toronto's economy. With the city hosting the internationally-renowned World Pride, attendance could reach two million.
But Ford says he won't be there. And, for the first time in his history of snubbing Pride events, he seems to have conceded it is because of a personal bias.
“I’m not going to go to the Pride parade. I’ve never gone to a Pride parade. So I’m not going to change the way I am,” Ford said during a mayoral candidate’s forum, according to the Toronto Star.
Since becoming mayor in 2010, Ford has bucked a long-standing mayoral tradition of participating in the annual Pride parade. Until now, Ford's excuse for not attending the Pride parade has always been that it conflicts with a family tradition of going to the cottage over Canada Day.
Last year, he attended a Pride flag-raising event at city hall only after being urged to by close allies. The question of whether he will participate in Toronto Pride, one of the city's largest annual festivals, always comes down to the last minute.
At least this year Ford gave his answer early, and honestly.
"We thank (Mayor Rob Ford) for his RSVP, and look forward to hosting another successful event in his absence," Pride Toronto wrote on Twitter.
— Pride Toronto (@PrideToronto) February 6, 2014
A bit of a shame, however, that the mayor has so definitively turned his back on a segment of Toronto citizens and taxpayers. Mayoral contender David Soknacki said at the candidate's forum on Wednesday that he planned on attending and stated, "The mayor has to represent all Torontonians." Coun. Shelley Carroll told CBC Toronto that Ford's refusal was "thinly-veiled homophobia." Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told CP24's Katie Simpson that he would attend World Pride, and urged Ford to do likewise.
Beaulieu says Pride is no longer concerned about whether Ford attends the event; the community is well-represented by other Toronto politicians.
“It has got very little to do with whether one individual chooses to support our community by coming or not, it has everything to do with the City of Toronto itself and the people,” he said.
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