This is my first post in a while, so I’ll provide some background on some of the things I’ve been researching; I’ve been working hard on getting together some information for some speaking engagements over the last few months. A lot of them have been about the gay community in Canada and Toronto. It’s been interesting as I’ve tried to learn some about our history: and I’ve found that there are a lot of people who know less about the Canadian gay rights than I do. Much of what I do know about the subject in general comes indirectly through Arkansas and the U.S. In spite of popular opinion, sometimes it seems that we’re not that far ahead of our American cousins.
I was struck by an example today: one that specifically involves “traditions” (thus the name of the post). One of the things I mention in my regular speech about the history of gay rights in Canada is the effect of the developing “Toronto Pride” parade and week, now possibly the biggest such event in the world and an enormous economic stimulus for the city. All through the late 80s the then-mayor (Art Eggleton) was asked repeatedly to proclaim “Pride Week”, but steadfastly refused (Toronto Pride, 2011). Then in 1991, City Council took the responsibility and declared the event to have the blessings of the municipality (DigitalJournal, 2010).
Since then, starting with Barbara Hall in 1995 (CTV, 2005), every mayor has participated (if reluctantly) in the parade. It’s become a tradition. According to the Globe and Mail (2011), former mayor Mel Lastman said that “he had a tough time making the decision to go to the parade his first year in office. His sons and friends convinced told him that ‘as the mayor of all the people, you have to represent all the people.’ He had a duty to go.” That would have been in 1997, fourteen years ago, when Pride Toronto was still developing into the glamorous spectacle it is today.
But apparently “representing all the people” doesn’t apply today. Some traditions fade. The newest man to serve in the role is Rob Ford: and he has chosen to go “up north” for the long weekend rather than attending the Pride Parade. He wants to spend time with his family (Globe and Mail, 2011), and he’s not making any effort to attend one of the biggest cultural events in the city. I guess he’s just so busy running the city that he can’t spend a couple of hours attending any of an event that lasts for a full week. That says a lot to me about his “family values”: and they’re the kind of values I thought I’d left behind in Arkansas.
Although a big part of me was not surprised when Mr. Ford declined to attend, some of me was. I will admit that I am not a big “Pride” guy; it’s too big, too showy, too boisterous and too many people. Literally, there’s too much money involved. Those are exactly the adjectives I associate with Mr. Ford. As I wrote last year, I prefer small events to the “over the top” energy of Pride. Maybe I’m getting old. But I do still go to Toronto Pride as often as I am able: first I walked with my church, now with my employer. This year I’ll be walking (and talking pictures) in the “Trans March” on July 1st, as it is much smaller and personal. I’m also one of the coordinators at work to let people know where we’re meeting; I figure if I’m going to go I’m going to be an active participant.
The editors at the Toronto Sun (as close as we currently come in Canada to Fox News) “admire Ford for sticking to his guns on this issue”. No surprise there, either: though they did “urge” him to attend at least one event during the week. He has not yet committed to anything. “I’ll take it one day at a time. I’m lucky if I know what I am doing tomorrow.” (Globe and Mail 2, 2011) Ahem… so he knows what he’s doing next Sunday, just not tomorrow. Let’s face it: he gets to do what he thinks is important, and anything with “Gay” in the name does not make the list.