Toronto celebrated a super-sized Pride June 29. With more than 12,000 marchers and 300 floats and marching contingents, the WorldPride parade lasted almost six hours — double the length and size of last year’s event.
But despite the length, the heat and the humidity, spirits remained high throughout most of the parade, with both local and international contingents marching, dancing and, on a few occasions, roller-skating down Yonge Street.
Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, who has marched in the Pride parade for more than 30 years, told Xtra that it was definitely the largest one she had ever seen.
“It’s amazing the number of people here,” she said, as people yelled greetings at her from the crowd. “It’s just phenomenal.”
Likewise, fellow candidate John Tory was thrilled with the turnout. “It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come in Canada,” he said.
Missing was Mayor Rob Ford, who returns to the job June 30 after a two-month stint in rehab. Attending in his stead were at least two Rob Ford imitators who happily high-fived the crowd. “It was rained out at the cottage, so I thought I would pick this year to make it, finally,” quipped one.
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the federal official opposition, got into the spirit of the event with a giant NDP float where volunteers led chants of “Get down with the NDP — sexy and progressive.”
Though Justin Trudeau, leader of the federal Liberal party, had advertised on Grindr that he would be marching in the parade, he reportedly left to attend another engagement after greeting marchers in the staging area on Bloor Street. Newly elected Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, however, the first openly gay premier to be elected in Canada, did march in the parade, to applause from the crowd.
While Pride has become a campaign stop for some politicians, there were many other political statements made during the march. One group walked the length of the route with a large banner decrying the corporatization of the event. Abuzar Chaudhary, one of the banner bearers, objected to Pride Toronto “co-opting our communities.”
The AIDS Committee of Durham Region continued its protest against Pride Toronto’s exclusive sponsorship agreement with Trojan brand condoms. Mark Hammann, the group’s manager of education services, helped organize the protest after Trojan did not respond to requests to supply his organization with condoms to distribute at the parade.
Trojan did eventually provide 3,000 sanctioned condoms for Durham’s AIDS committee to give out — all of which were gone before the group hit College Street, Hammann said. He still finds it unethical to restrict condom distribution to just one brand at Pride.
Some political statements were acts of presence and visibility. “There are lots of bisexuals who don’t know that we are out there,” said Julie Bowring, who marched with the Toronto Bisexual Network. She wants other bisexual people to know that support exists for them in Toronto.
Other political statements were acts of love. Inspector Barbara McLean, of the Toronto Police Service, marched in the parade holding her partner’s hand. “I couldn’t feel better,” she said of WorldPride.
Despite an announcement late June 28 that media would have only restricted access to the parade route and its marchers, many reporters were able to interview the participants and move freely among them to record their message.
As a result, Xtra was able to meet people like Lexus Jade. Originally from the Caribbean, Jade now lives in Edmonton and travelled here for WorldPride. Dressed as an angel, she said she and the group she was with wanted to spread a simple message: “Pride is for all of us.”
With files from Julie Cruikshank and Rob Salerno