In an attempt to circumvent the mayor's reluctance to attend Pride events, an LGBT group is planning an outing to his annual barbecue.
Each summer, Rob Ford holds “Ford Fest,” a giant public barbecue—but this year the crowd may have a new and non-Ford-friendly contingent. A loosely organized group is using Facebook in an attempt to get members of Toronto’s LGBT community to show up to the September 7 event. At press time, 530 people had responded to say they were planning to attend.
The group outing is a response to Ford’s avoidance of events related to Toronto’s LGBT community. He has famously dodged Toronto’s Pride Parade two years in a row, pleading family obligations at his Muskoka cottage. He has also refused to attend other Pride Toronto events. He did, however, make a surprise appearance at a flag-raising ceremony for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in May.
Leigh Williams, a 24-year-old social-service worker who is one of the three creators of the Facebook group, says her intention isn’t to goad Ford and his family into an angry reaction.
“I think that our message from the get-go has been pretty clear,” she says. “We’re not there to protest or cause a disturbance of any kind.”
Meanwhile, the Facebook invite takes a more combative tone. It says: “Well, since Robby was too busy to come to any Pride events this year we are going to bring the Pride Parade to his backyard.” The Facebook group is not affiliated with Pride Toronto.
Ford Fest usually takes place not in the mayor’s backyard, but in his mother’s, at 15 Weston Wood Road, in Etobicoke. It’s a meet-and-greet event that in past years has been intended primarily for Ford’s supporters. This year, Ford invited the “whole city” to attend during an interview on Newstalk 1010. He expects between 3,000 and 4,000 people. We were there last year and can confirm that the hamburgers and beer were free. It was a good time.
Williams says she wants an LGBT contingent at Ford Fest this year as a sort of compensation for Ford’s lack of contact with Toronto’s queer community. “It would be great to attend the event and have some representation of our community there,” she says. But her hope is that LGBT attendees will behave respectfully.
“We don’t want to be recognized as separate from the other attendees at the event,” she says.
She expects that about a quarter of the people who have responded to the Facebook invite will show up on the day. “Definitely we’ll draw a large crowd,” she says.
We inadvertently published an earlier draft of this article, which didn’t reflect changes made during editing. Those revisions have since been restored.