Bill Schiller, the Chicago born Secretary General of the International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network (I.L.G.C.N.) Information Secretariat, led the procession.
The party atmosphere in the heart of the city’s gay village was electric all weekend. Thousands of people gathered on Church Street Friday to enjoy the beer gardens and sound stages, runners raised money at a charitable event Saturday morning, and a large crowd turned out to support Dyke March participants later that day.
Sunday turned out to be a perfect day for a parade and Toronto E.M.S. workers were out on the route to make sure spectators and participants kept cool and safe.
Politicians and political hopefuls were also out in full force Sunday, including city council candidate Adam Vaughan, Liberal leadership contender Gerard Kennedy, Grit M.P. Belinda Stronach, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, NDP couple Jack Layton and Olivia Chow and Mayor David Miller.
“Pride’s become so established in Toronto and I think it’s because Torontonians have a shared value of respect for everyone. Pride started as a statement by the gay and lesbian community, now all Torontonians … are out here saying ‘This is us’,” Miller said.
Organizers say it’s time to celebrate after some troubling anti-gay actions earlier this week.
Some intolerant soccer fans showed up at Hamilton’s Pride event last Saturday and allegedly spat on and swore at parade participants.
And gay rights activists voiced their opposition Monday when renowned ethicist Margaret Somerville received an honorary doctorate from Ryerson University. She has spoken out against same-sex marriage and artificial insemination for lesbians, but says she’s not against gay people.
Toronto Pride organizers note that acceptance of gay and lesbian culture is growing every year and that’s evident by the huge crowds that turn out to celebrate at the Pride parade.
The event started 26 years ago out of anger after Toronto Police raided four bathhouses in one night and arrested more than 250 men.
About 800 people turned out for the first march against the police action, which was held in Grange Park behind the A.G.O.
City Councillor Kyle Rae (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) was a young man when he helped organize the event and is amazed how the annual march has evolved.
“We were very scared,” he said. “And now we worry about how do you accommodate a million people (and) what happens if it rains.”
To see unedited video of the parade, click here.
And for information on how you can be a part of next year’s event, click here.
While about a million people flood into the city for Pride Week, many same-sex couples also come to Toronto to get married.
Same-sex unions were legalized across the country in 2005, but many provinces, including Ontario, had already legalized the marriages.
Here are some statistics, courtesy of the city of Toronto, on same-sex marriages since the unions became legal in Ontario June 2003 up until June 1 of this year.
- 49526 total licences issued
- 3325 were to same sex couples (approx 6-7 percent)
- of that 1955 were to men (60%), 1370 to females (40 percent)
- of 3325, 1651 were to Canadians, 1267 to Americans and 407 to those who are outside Canada and US
Since Jan 1, 2006 until June 1, 2006:
- 356 licences issued to same sex couples
- 149 to those from outside Canada and US
2006 Pride Parade Awards
The Pride Toronto 2006 Pride Parade Awards were announced on Sunday, with decisions made by this year’s judges Trey Anthony, author of Da Kink in My Hair, Nina Arsenault, author of T-Girl and Canadian Idol Judge Jake Gold.
Award for Best Celebration of the 2006 Theme: TNT Men Enjoying Nudity;
Award for Most Fabulous Float: Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto;
Award for Most Fabulous Choreography: ROTC Toronto;
Award for Best Community Float: ASAAP Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention;
Award for Most Fabulous Costume (Individual): Yvonne Joseph of United Steelworkers Steel Pride
Award for Most Fabulous Costumes (Group): Portuguese and Brazilian Gay Community
Award for Most Fabulous Hat: Air Canada- twirly plane hat
Award for Outstanding Community Marching Group: Church Street Pipe Band
Special Judges’ Award for Best Tonsil Hockey: Toronto Fire Services
Special Judges’ Award for Best Drag: Latino Group HOLA
Special Judges’ Award for Best Embodiment of Pride Spirit: Pelau Masqueerade.