2 min

Pride welcomes the mayor

A last-minute demand that Mel Lastman’s parade privileges be revoked was ignored by the Pride committee.

The mayor received a smattering of boos during his slow drive down Yonge St, but the overwhelming response was cheering – and fountains of water completely soaking the 68-year-old mayor.

Earlier this month, Lastman went to Kenya to encourage International Olympic Committee voting delegates to support Toronto’s bid for the 2008 Olympics. He wasn’t keen, telling a reporter he saw himself “in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”

“His racist comments are a slap in the face to people of colour in the City Of Toronto,” reads a protest sent to the Pride committee. “They are an insult to everyone who is committed to fighting racism. No publicly elected official should make such statements…. His apology did not show an understanding of the grave damage that he has caused.”

The Jun 22 letter was signed by a member of the Bread Not Circuses Coalition, and endorsed by the homo June 13 Committee, named for the beginning of a series of police visits to the Bijou porn theatre tracking “indecent acts” that eventually shut the place down; it’s now re-opened without the liquor licence that gave cops the green light to walk in whenever they wanted.

The call to boycott the mayor followed a press conference held by 25 different community groups condemning his comments. Lastman has refused to resign over the issue.

“You don’t actually invite people to the parade,” says co-chair Kim-Ellen Hurst. “He is the mayor of Toronto, he represents the people of Toronto… His remarks, as we all know, were inappropriate and hurtful.”

In turn, Pastor Fred Phelps (who pickets the funerals of dead homosexuals and announces that they’re burning in hell) and his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church are supporting China over Canada for the Olympics. The congregation says it will picket the International Olympic Committee meeting in Moscow Thu, Jul 12.

In China, homosexuals are often jailed.

“Canada criminalizes gospel preaching about the soul-damning sin of sodomites,” explains a press release that also features Lastman’s African comments. Phelps sends out such notices regularly, but rarely shows.

Otherwise, there was one lone Jesus freak at Yonge and Dundas on Pride Day, Jun 24.

Constable Judy Nosworthy says there were a few reports of minor assault, but as far as she knows, no one was arrested.

There were problems with “illegal food vending and selling of water on-site” and companies which hadn’t paid for the privilege putting up signage, says Pride’s Hurst. She says another corporation snuck into the parade without paying, and a community group’s fundraising food sales on Wellesley were moved a few feet over to accommodate a store owner who complained that his business was being poached.

Ashley McIsaac cut his Saturday night Pride stage gig short after a man came up from behind and surprised him on stage. Witnesses say the Cape Breton fiddler punched the spectator, then ended his performance.

And finally, here are the politicians of Pride: ex mayor Barbara Hall, city councillors Kyle Rae, Jack Layton, Pam McConnell, Olivia Chow; Liberals George Smitherman (provincial) and Allan Rock (federal), Ontario New Democrats Marilyn Churley and leader Howard Hampton.

A volunteer at the Progressive Conservative booth on Sunday said leader Joe Clark (the grand marshal of Calgary Pride) had wanted to come, but was previously booked for Quebec’s St Jean Baptiste celebration the same weekend.