The 32nd annual Pride Week has officially begun, and the rainbow flag is now flying high over Toronto City Hall.
A crowd of hundreds cheered as the flag was raised June 25 while Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam introduced 27 city councillors, a record in the history of Toronto Pride.
“What we saw today were 28 city councillors who, in spite of all the debates we may have at city hall, are willing to stand up in support of Pride in Toronto,” Wong-Tam told Xtra. “That is a strong majority, and what it really tells us is that we are on the right track towards building the kind of inclusive city where, right or left, the political leadership understands the cultural and civic contribution of the queer community.”
Local activist and Pride board member Roy Mitchell, who is one of six judges in the Pride parade, says it may be a record number, but 28 is still not enough.
“I want the number to be 100 percent,” he says. “Which councillors weren’t there? This has been planned for months. There should be a very good reason why anyone isn’t there from council.”
Those councillors who were not in attendance: Doug Ford, Norm Kelly, Pam McConnell, Ron Moeser, Vince Crisanti, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Mark Grimes, Anthony Perruzza, Maria Augimeri, Georgio Mammoliti, Ana Bailão, Denzil Minnan-Wong, John Parker, James Pasternak, David Shiner, Mike Del Grande and Adam Vaughan.
The official proclamation was read by Councillor Shelley Carroll on behalf of Mayor Rob Ford, who did not show up for the second year in a row.
This has been a year of important political victories, which were highlighted by Pride co-chairs Luka Amona and Francisco Alvarez, who told the crowd about the crucial passage of Bill 13 and Toby’s Act at Queen’s Park.
“Pride’s theme this year is Celebrate and Demonstrate,” Amona said. “With the Accepting Schools Act in Ontario, Catholic schools can no longer deny GSAs, and Toby’s Act ensures trans people have protection in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Those are big victories. We have reason to celebrate.”
In honour of Bill 13 and Toby’s Act, two politicians who championed the laws were named co-grand marshals: NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo and Education Minister Laurel Broten. Broten was also not in attendance.
Prior to the flag-raising, members of Queers for Social Justice staged a die-in to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and other issues affecting the queer community.
Wong-Tam noted the importance of Pride, especially in countries where being gay is still a criminal offence. She says Canada has a responsibility to keep fighting for equality and freedom everywhere.
“Pride is still a dream in many parts of the world,” Wong-Tam said, before introducing Pride’s international grand marshal, Serbian activist Goran Miletic, a tireless champion of human rights. Queer people in Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslav states face heavy social stigma and officially sanctioned discrimination.