Ford makes surprise appearance at flag raising
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012 6:05PM EDT
To cheers and applause, Mayor Rob Ford surprised a crowd of hundreds of people when he showed up at a flag-raising event to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Ford's staff said the mayor would not attend the rainbow flag raising due to prior commitments, but he showed up moments before the noon-hour event began and read a proclamation that says all of Toronto is behind anti-homophobia.
After reading the proclamation and posing for photos with organizers, Ford hung around for a few minutes but left without commenting to reporters, as people continued to give speeches to the crowd.
The theme of this year's event is sexual diversity in the workplace.
Twitter lights up with reaction
When Ford showed up, Twitter immediately lit up with surprise and comments in support of the mayor's decision.
City Coun. Shelley Carroll encouraged people to show their appreciation.
"Everyone tweet @TOMayorFord with your thanks," Carroll tweeted.
"It's so rare that I have a chance to say this, but GOOD ON YA @TOMayorFord for attending the PFLAG flag raising!" a user by the name of Sonal wrote.
Still, some people were not impressed.
In response to a fellow Twitter user, a person by the name of Sabocat wrote: "But don't you feel a little scammed? The mayor managed to set the bar so low that showing up is a huge deal."
"Wait a sec - when I do things I'm expected to do I don't think that counts as a 'wow' moment," Jeremy Elliott tweeted.
Before Ford arrived, city Coun. Gord Perks, who was scheduled to read the proclamation in Ford's place, told CP24 he was "disappointed" by the mayor's decision not to attend.
"The office of the mayor carries certain responsibilities, and speaking out for all Torontonians and attending these sort of ceremonies are part of his job," Perks said. "I don't understand why he doesn't want to do that part of his job. I just hope that one day he will."
Before the event, the group behind the flag raising - Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) - said the mayor declined an invitation to attend, saying he was unavailable.
PFLAG Toronto president Irene Miller said Ford skipping the event would be a lost opportunity for the mayor to stand with those who have gay or lesbian loved ones.
The mayor received plenty of criticism for skipping last year's Pride Week events and he has taken more flak for not committing to any of this year's events. Ford has already said he is skipping the Pride parade because he will be at his family's cottage for the Canada Day weekend.
It's the same reason he gave for missing last year's parade - a controversial move that led some to accuse him of homophobia.
Toronto's past three mayors have all taken part in the parade.
Ford has said he may stop by some other Pride Week events depending on his schedule.
Group puts Pride funding in peril
Meanwhile, Pride Week organizers may lose out on a municipal grant if a controversial group marches in the parade.
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) has confirmed its intention to return to the parade, which takes place July 1.
The group, which stands in opposition to Israel's treatment of Palestinians, first created controversy when it marched in the parade two years ago.
Last year, QuAIA members volunteered to skip the parade because some council members threatened to pull Pride Week's grant if the group participated.
The city changed its policy because of the situation, choosing to provide funding to Pride after the event as long as the city's anti-discrimination policy wasn't violated.
QuAIA's inclusion in this year's parade would likely put the six-figure grant in jeopardy again.
Event organizers told the Globe and Mail the parade will be held with or without city funding, but cuts may be made elsewhere if the grant is denied.
City council will vote on the grant, worth almost $125,000, next month. The city also provides services such as policing and clean-up to the tune of about $300,000.
The deadline to apply for a spot in the parade is June 1.
Pride Weeks runs June 22 to July 1.
With files from The Canadian Press
@ChrisKitching is on Twitter. Don't forget, for instant breaking news, follow @CP24 on Twitter.