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Justin Trudeau to be first prime minister to attend Pride Toronto

Three levels of government leaders will be on hand during festivities

Pride Toronto took over Yonge and Dundas Square in 2015. Now, organizers are extending Pride to be a month-long event. Credit: Pride Toronto

Justin Trudeau is set to be the first sitting prime minister to attend a Pride parade.

According to Pride Toronto, Trudeau has confirmed that he will march in the 2016 parade scheduled for the July long weekend.

With Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory also set to be present, it will be the first time that the leaders of all three levels of government will attend the Toronto festivities.

“That’s beyond exciting,” says Mathieu Chantelois, the executive director of Pride Toronto.

“Two years ago we had a Harper government and Rob Ford as a mayor,” he says. “And the fact that we now live in a country where all these people are calling our office to know the date of the parade to make sure it’s in their agenda is such a giant step forward.”

While the festival itself will take place from June 24 to July 3, there will be a variety of programming throughout June for the city’s first ever “Pride Month.”

Some of that will explore the 35th anniversary of Operation Soap, the infamous Toronto bathhouse raids that sparked mass protests in 1981.

“It’s important to talk about it first because a lot of Torontonians, a lot of people from our community have no idea and it’s part of our history,” Chantelois says. “That’s also what Pride should be celebrating.”

Instead of a single human rights conference, Pride Toronto is planning four separate evenings of discussion, one of which will focus on the legacy of the bathhouse raids.

Queer Syrian refugees will also have a special place during Pride.

“It’s great to welcome them to our country, but they will still face a lot of homophobia,” he says.

Chantelois says that Pride Toronto will provide them front-row seats to the festivities and will include programming that celebrates the queerness of Middle Eastern cultures.

“Not only do I want them to be at the party, but I want them to be in the first row and feel like they belong,” he says.