Nobody missed Rob Ford at Pride—but his absence is still significant for the city

Nobody missed Rob Ford at Pride—but his absence is still significant for the city

Where’s Rob Ford? (Image: Kyle Anstey)

Despite a somewhat dramatic game of last-minute will-he-or-won’t-he speculation, just as he promised, Rob Ford no-showed at Toronto’s Pride parade on Sunday, opting instead for a Muskoka weekend with his family. And just as they promised, rainbow-wearing revellers cared not as they packed the downtown core to celebrate under sunny skies and in the stifling heat for this year’s four-and-a-half-hour, squirt-gun-soaked festivities. But even though Ford’s absence didn’t do a thing to dampen the raucous atmosphere at Pride—of course, nobody thought Ford should be there because of his party tricks—we think the fact that city’s mayor didn’t attend the annual event for the first time since 1994 is still a troubling break from tradition.

Globe and Mail city columnist Marcus Gee, who penned a smart column on the issue last week, has the story:

When [public officials] participate in the Pride parade, as mayors have for more than a decade, they are sending a powerful message that homophobia is not tolerated in our city. They are signalling that the whole city, led by its highest official, stands shoulder to shoulder against this poisonous form of hatred.

By boycotting Pride, declining to attend not just the parade but all other Pride events so far, Mr. Ford is sending the opposite message. He is saying that shunning the gay community is acceptable. He is giving the bigots cover to voice their dark resentments. In effect, if not in intent, he is legitimizing hate.

In other words, not only does it seem impolite not to publicly support and participate in an event that brings millions of tourist dollars to Toronto businesses, but Ford’s reluctance to champion Pride Week gives homophobes the impression that the mayor is—at least tacitly—on their side.

Ford, on the other hand, was steadfast in his decision not to attend, withstanding mounting pressure to do the opposite from individuals as diverse as former mayor Mel Lastman, Liberal MPP Glen Murray, Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, and missing a golden opportunity to work past some of the divisiveness that has marked his term as mayor thus far. Instead, he’s just created another dividing line.

Mayor Ford mocked but not missed at Pride parade [Toronto Star]
A Pride Parade victory [Toronto Sun]
Toronto mayor’s snub of Pride Week gives bigots cover to spew their bile [Globe and Mail]
Video: More than a million at Pride, but not Toronto’s mayor [Globe and Mail]
Toronto celebrates longest Pride parade ever [National Post]