“Welcome to your City Hall!”
With those happy but also pointed words, councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) welcomed the participants of Proud of Toronto to the seat of our municipal government—a municipal government whose support of the LGBTQ community isn’t ringing as loudly before.
Proud of Toronto is a new campaign, started by activists in response to some worrisome signals from Rob Ford that key supports for the LGBTQ community may not be as secure as they once were. The goal is to ensure continued “financial and symbolic support” for programs and services: a range that includes not just the headline-grabbing Pride parade, but also HIV/AIDS–related services, other arts and culture programs, economic development initiatives, and more.
Why the concerns?
“There’ve been councillors who have said, and the mayor said during the campaign, that they don’t want to fund Pride and that’s something that’s of concern to many of us, who feel that Pride is so much more than a parade—it’s really the centrepoint of so much community outreach and organizing efforts,” Doug Kerr told us. A volunteer with and one of the organizers of Proud of Toronto, Kerr continued: “And then of course the mayor was the only voice, the only vote on council to vote against accepting provincial funding for HIV/AIDS prevention. That was a bit alarming to many people that our mayor would vote against that.”
However, Kerr—and every other participant we spoke with—emphasized that yesterday’s event was a celebration rather than a protest. The atmosphere was generally buoyant, though some of the activist groups that set up display tables around the rotunda are clearly anxious about the stability of their funding. For now, at least, the emphasis is on the positive. As Kerr put it: “Hopefully we won’t have to have any protest rallies.”
Held on the eve of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, yesterday’s event was a clear sign that the LGBTQ community, as upbeat as everyone is trying to be, will be ready to challenge City Hall if there is a reduction in support for social services or Pride. Mayor Ford has, to date, not committed to marching in the Pride parade—an important symbolic gesture which comes with no material commitments, but would allay at least some suspicions that Ford isn’t entirely comfortable with the queer community.
One councillor commented to us yesterday: “I think that one of the heartbreaking truths about our society is that you can still be a homophobe and achieve some kind of political prominence in Toronto. It means that we all need to be vigilant all the time.” There are many who wonder if and worry that the description fairly captures our mayor—who did not make an appearance at Proud of Toronto’s launch. (Neither did brother Doug, nor any of Ford’s key supporters on council.) Amidst the colourful displays and heartfelt speeches, this is a community on alert.
Photos by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.