Toronto mayor surprises crowd at rainbow flag-raising
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford defied expectations and appeared at a rainbow flag-raising event at city hall on Thursday, commemorating the battle against homophobia.
Ford appeared alongside several council members and the lunch-hour event, marking the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Ford earned a round of applause from the crowd as he took the podium to read the official proclamation.
"Toronto is a society open to everyone, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, two-spirit and transsexual community, who are an important part of this city's diversity," Ford said told the crowd.
"Toronto is an active participant in the fight for elimination of all forms of discrimination and is committed to the equal treatment of all people and their right to live in conditions of dignity, respect and peace."
Ford had been expected to miss the event, with members of his staff telling reporters that he would be tied up with prior commitments.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is openly gay, said that she hoped Ford enjoyed the warm reception he received at the event, adding that he could expect the same reaction should he attend some Pride Week events in June.
"I am very pleased with my mayor and very proud of my mayor," Wong-Tam said on Thursday. "I think the mayor has demonstrated the possibility to evolve and change his mind. I am just so thrilled with what he has been able to demonstrate here today."
It is unclear what Ford's sudden appearance at Thursday's event hosted by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays means for the chances he will attend Pride events later this summer.
Ford left Thursday's event without answering reporters' questions and did not comment when asked whether he would attend any events during Pride Week, which runs from June 22 to July 1.
Ford was criticized last year for skipping Pride Toronto's annual parade and city hall to attend a family vacation. Ford missed every event during the 10-day festival, including a flag-raising event at city hall.
He has already said he will not attend this year's parade and has not committed to any other events.
Thursday's flag-raising ceremony is not affiliated with Pride Week.
At another International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia event in Toronto, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten called inclusivity a key value in the province.
"Ontario embraces multiculturalism, human rights and diversity as fundamental issues," Broten told a gathering of gay-straight alliance members from public and Catholic schools.