2 min

Wong-Tam talks to council about importance of Pride

Address interrupted for Ford photo-op

Mayor Rob Ford tries out the pink neon bike. Credit: Courtesy of Councillor Mark Grimes

While Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spoke to city council about queer youth, marginalized trans people and seniors forced back into the closet on June 15, Mayor Rob Ford was busy playing on a pink neon bike.

“Pride celebrations are relevant today and have current impact,” she told council. “Queer youth are more likely to be bullied at school, and transgender people are more likely to commit suicide. Gay seniors are going back into the closet as they transition into long-term care facilities.”

About halfway through, Councillor Gord Perks told Wong-Tam to pause while Ford mugged for the media’s cameras.

The pink bike that was perched in the council chamber is part of a city-wide installation by artists Caroline Macfarlane and Vanessa Nicholas, called The Good Bike Project. The artists plan to restore a number of Toronto’s 150 abandoned bikes for placement throughout Toronto neighbourhoods. According to a press release sent out by Councillor Gary Crawford, the bikes are meant to “mark sites that promote the ethos of regeneration and community that sparked their creativity.”

After council chambers quieted down, Wong-Tam continued speaking. Once again, she invited the entire council, including the mayor, to raise the rainbow flag and read the Pride Week proclamation on June 27 at noon at city hall.

Ford has already confirmed that he will not attend the ceremony. Councillor Frances Nunziata will read the proclamation in his place, Wong-Tam has said. Ford signed the proclamation on June 10, after several calls were made to his office inquiring why Pride Week was not on the list of 2011 proclamations.

“This year it is even more important for the City of Toronto to declare support for the LGBTQ community,” Wong-Tam told council. “The celebrated rainbow flag has been banned at a GTA Catholic school. In addition to the ban, [Catholic schools] are banning gay-straight alliances, which are popular peer-support clubs in other high schools where gay and straight students study, play and learn.”

Pride Toronto (PT) will be discussed at city council on Wednesday, June 15. It’s expected that Councillor James Pasternak will put a motion forward to challenge the decision made at the May 24 executive committee meeting, at which the committee heard from more than 45 speakers during the eight-hour meeting. In the end, no motion was brought forward that would have made Pride funding contingent on a guarantee by PT that the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) take no part in any festival events, anywhere, all week.

That may change, Wong-Tam tells Xtra. Follow @dreahouston and @xtra_canada on Twitter for updates throughout the day and check regularly for the full story.

A city manager’s report, released in April, confirmed that the phrase “Israeli apartheid” – and by extension QuAIA’s participation in Pride celebrations – does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy.