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Rob Ford’s hometown of Etobicoke to celebrate Pride

Organizer pushing back ‘against the mentality that we’re Ford Nation’

The community of Etobicoke will hold Pride festivities June 30. Credit: Courtesy of Carol Ledden

Though commonly considered a conservative stronghold, Rob Ford’s hometown of Etobicoke will celebrate Pride June 26 with a day of Oz-themed festivities funded by the local Lakeshore Village Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“We really want to step up,” says Bram Zeidenberg, co-chair of Social Action for Equality (SAFE) and one of the event’s main organizers. “There’s an effort to kind of push back against the mentality that we’re Ford Nation in Etobicoke.”

With a diverse population and an active arts scene, the community can be a very welcoming and inclusive place, Zeidenberg says. The idea to celebrate Pride first came about a year ago when SAFE teamed up with the Lakeshore Village BIA to put up stickers and banners in businesses and to hold a live music show and dance party.

This year the festivities have grown exponentially, with 30 events packed into a single day. Activities include food tastings featuring local restaurants, live music, film screenings and speakers, a comedy show at New Toronto Billiards featuring drag queens and lesbian belly dancers, arts and crafts events for families, a bus tour and even a Toto look-alike contest for dogs.

Though Daily Xtra reported in February 2013 that some Etobicoke businesses seemed reluctant to embrace the gay community, Zeidenberg says the reaction this year has been overwhelmingly positive. Many businesses have jumped at the chance to get involved in the celebrations, he says. “[We had] so much reception — we had people upset at us that we somehow missed them and they didn’t get involved earlier.”

Zeidenberg says he believes Ontario’s current political climate, and particularly Premier Kathleen Wynne’s election, are major reasons for the shift in mentality. “There is that pride in being part of a province and a city that is really showing that we’re inclusive this week.” The community’s more welcoming attitude has also allowed Etobicoke’s LGBT residents and businesspeople to become more visible and claim their place in the community, he says.

“We all come from different places,” he says. “[Etobicoke] is a beautiful part of our city that wants to be welcoming to a different community.”

While Mayor Ford will be returning to the office from rehab on June 30 (after the WorldPride festivities wind down), Zeidenberg says the community of Etobicoke has moved on. “The messages {Ford] has been sending us for a long time have been biphobic and transphobic and misogynistic, and it’s just not the attitude of people.”

Zeidenberg says Etobicoke has a message for the mayor: “Sorry, you’ve been left behind.”