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Pride flag rises at city hall without mayor

A large crowd turned out for the official kickoff to Pride Week festivities in Toronto on Monday when organizers raised the rainbow flag atop city hall. More than 20 city councillors attended the event with one notable absence: Mayor Rob Ford.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam presided over the ceremony, welcoming 25 of her council colleagues including Coun. Shelley Carroll, who read the mayor’s Pride Week proclamation.

“I, Mayor Rob Ford, on behalf of Toronto City Council … do hereby proclaim June 22 to July 1, 2012, as Pride Week in the City of Toronto,” Carroll said amid cheers, and some jeers at the mention of Ford’s name.

Ford, as expected, didn’t attend Monday’s event, although he did make a surprise appearance at a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) flag-raising event last month.

Earlier Monday, the mayor’s brother, Coun. Doug Ford, said they’d be skipping the Pride parade again this year to uphold their family tradition of gathering at the cottage on the July long weekend.

“I personally support the Pride parade. I think it’s great for Toronto. It brings a lot of tourist dollars in and everyone has a lot of fun,” Coun. Ford said.

The Pride parade goes July 1. Click here for a preview of the massive event.

Pride co-chairs Francisco Alvarez and Luka Amona were at city hall Monday to celebrate the festival.

“This year’s theme is celebrate and demonstrate. We celebrate and share our culture and successes. We demonstrate against bigotry and intolerance, while we demonstrate our commitment to equality, acceptance, diversity and love,” Amona said.

Alvarez noted some important achievements this year, including an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

“But we’ve also been moved to sadness and anger by stories of suicide and bullying against young people in our schools,” Alvarez said.

Amona also noted the successful fight for the protection of gay-straight alliances in Ontario’s public and Catholic schools.

“It is time for us to raise the rainbow flag. It is time for us to stand for diversity. It is time for us to stand for inclusion. It is time for us to stand for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender]rights in Toronto,” Wong-Tam said.