Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s recent comments about the Pride Parade and the rainbow flag border on outright homophobia. He’s further marginalizing LGBT people at a time when they need solidarity.
Last Wednesday, Ford stated that he would never attend Toronto’s Pride Parade, saying “I’m not going to change the way I am.” Two days later, he requested that a rainbow flag representing gay pride be removed from a ceremonial flag pole at Toronto City Hall.
The flag had been raised to coincide with the beginning of the Sochi Olympics, as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government has passed laws criminalizing gay life and has tolerated anti-gay violence. Ford justified his request for the flag’s removal, saying, “This is not about someone’s sexual preference … it’s the Olympics – this is about being patriotic to your country”.
Ford and his supporters are incorrect when they act as if the ongoing politicizing of the Sochi Olympics is unique or misguided. The Olympics have been political for a long time, beginning with the Berlin Olympics and subsequent boycotts through the 1980s.
Putin’s anti-gay laws and Russia’s overall anti-gay climate should be condemned. The world’s attention has forced Putin to slightly soften his stance and state that the Olympics will take place “without any discrimination on the basis of any characteristic”. Actions of solidarity aren’t just symbolic, the world’s attention has had real effects.
If anything, Ford has effectively aligned himself with Putin as both leaders are intent on espousing a brand of patriotism that is exclusionary to LGBT people. As many have pointed out in the wake of this controversy, Canadian patriotism should include a firm commitment to LGBT rights as that’s one of the main things that differentiate us from a place like Russia.
In the aftermath of these controversies, some commentators have theorized that Ford is actively pandering to homophobes in hopes of winning their votes in the upcoming mayoral election.
While this might seem unlikely in the context of Toronto’s mostly progressive politics, Ford still has a substantial base of support. It remains to be seen if he will be re-elected. No matter what happens, whether he is re-elected or his time in power comes to an end, we face the possibility of a still more brazen and offensive Ford – an ugly prospect.
His actions reflect poorly on the City of Toronto. Ford and his supporters are ignorant of the highly political history of the Olympics and should accept that Canada’s broad acceptance of LGBT rights is worth promoting.
— Journal Editorial Board
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