TORONTO – The Rainbow Flag is now flying at city hall to kick off Pride Week.
For the first time ever, Mayor Rob Ford read the Pride proclamation Monday.
His appearance to deliver the proclamation surprised just about everyone gathered at the noon-hour event.
Toronto Summer 2013: Read our Pride Week preview
Pride Toronto co-chair Francisco Alvarez says Ford’s first appearance at the kick off to Pride is significant.
“We think it’s a really positive signal,” he said.
“He’s the mayor of everybody in the city and so he’s finally looking at us as an important group so we’re really glad to see that he thinks it’s important to take time out of his schedule to finally join us.”
Some in the gay community say while this is a positive step for the mayor, they also point out he recently voted against funding for Pride.
“Rob, baby steps, you’re mayor for all of the city, not just those you pick and choose so good on you. You got a lot to do,” one man said.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam hosted the event.
“It is my pleasure to welcome you to the official kickoff of summer, the 33rd anniversary of Pride,” Wong-Tam said to big cheers from the rooftop crowd.
Wong-Tam later spoke about the significance of the flag and of Pride Week itself.
“The rainbow flag is the internationally recognized flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer people. It represents the equality of life that each LGBTQ person dreams about and strives for. Each member of community wants, needs, fights for and has fought for freedom, equality and social inclusion.
“LGBTQ people have been forced to advocate for basic human rights, human rights that are automatically conferred to others. When we raise the rainbow flag in Toronto, we remind employers, citizens, landlords, corporations, communities and neighbourhoods that our great city welcomes everyone and everyone belongs in the City of Toronto.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne did not speak but did help to raise the flag. She said Sunday she would march in the Pride parade, becoming the first sitting Ontario premier to do so.
Wong-Tam praised Wynne’s decision on Monday, calling it “historic.”
Ford did not answer any questions. Two weeks ago, Ford was one of three members of council to vote against funding for Pride and other cultural events.
The festival runs until June 30, ending with a massive parade in the downtown core.
— With files from CityNews.ca