The annual Pride Toronto festival concluded Sunday with the signature parade through the downtown province capital of Ontario.
This year, for the first time, the festival was expanded to run for a whole month and included a tremendously diverse mix of events, discussions and gatherings – all grouped under the umbrella theme of ‘You Can Sit With Us’.
However, following Friday night’s Trans March (which police estimate attracted 11,000 participants), and Saturday’s Dyke March, the real biggie was always going to be Sunday’s Pride parade.
The reason why this year’s parade was sure to grab headlines was one of its very special guests: Canada’s widely popular and respected new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.
Mr Trudeau has attended Pride in the past but this was the first time he was attending as a serving head of state – a first for any Pride festival in Canada. He was joined by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (the first openly gay head of government in Canada) and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
The parade was dedicated to the memory of those who were recently killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. It included a minute’s silence at 3pm which was observed by all those along the route.
‘We will never forget the 49 family members taken from us in Florida,’ said Mathieu Chantelois, Executive Director of Pride Toronto in a statement after the event.
‘Just as we never forget all of the lives we have lost due to discrimination and violence. It’s uplifting to see so many people come to Toronto from across Canada and around the world to celebrate the history, courage and diversity of our community.’
The parade made its way down Yonge Street, where onlookers climbed rooftops and scaffolding to get themselves the best vantage points.
There was a few moment of drama when members of #BlackLivesMatter Toronto decided to hold a sit-down protest in front of a police station located on the route. They remain seated for at least 20 minutes, bringing the parade to a halt.
The purpose of the sit-down was to issue a number of demands to Pride organizers, including that there be no police floats at next year’s Pride and that there is increased funding for Blockorama and other community stages and events.
Eventually, they were persuaded to end their protest. A posting on the Black Lives Matter TO Twitter feed suggested that Pride Toronto had agreed to their demands. Pride Toronto have been approached for comment to clarify.
— BlackLivesMatter TO (@BLM_TO) July 3, 2016
However, that was the only hiccup in a Pride march that, with Mr Trudeau’s help, made Canadian history.
Afterwards, many flocked to Dundas Square to catch stage entertainment, including a moving and motivational speech from RuPaul on the importance of truly loving yourself and other members of your global LGBTI tribe.
Other smaller stages were dotted around the gay village district of Church and Wellesley, which was packed with good-natured revelers for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
The festival offered up thousands of happy, smiley faces and a real sense of community and respect – not least for those lost in Orlando, who were commemorated by several of the walking groups.
Well done, Toronto, for organizing one of the most amazing Pride festivals we’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Same time next year, then?
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