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Ford sticks to decision not to attend Pride parade

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Mayor Rob Ford is sticking to his decision to skip the Pride Parade and is not committing to any events during the 10-day festival.

"My family comes first. I am going up to the cottage like I said. That's it," he told reporters Thursday who asked if he would reconsider his decision given the strong reaction it has generated.

The mayor also said he is unsure if he will make it to any of the Pride Week activities. "I'll take it one day at a time. I'm lucky if I know what I am doing tomorrow," he said.

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"We always spend the weekend together," said the mayor's mother Diane Ford. "Now that both boys are in politics it is very difficult to get them together.

"All these allegations they're saying about him, they are not true. He just wants to spend the weekend with his family," she added.

Mr. Ford was asked outright if he was homophobic, but did not answer the question.

Former Toronto mayor Art Eggleton was reluctant to comment on the issue but said Mr. Ford, "has to do what he thinks is the right thing to do."

When Mr. Eggleton was mayor he was criticized for refusing to sign the proclamation that begins the week of festivities. He said if he were mayor today he would declare it.

Beginning with Barbara Hall, Toronto mayors have been regular if sometimes reluctant participants in Pride celebrations.

Former mayor Mel Lastman told the Globe that he had a tough time making the decision to go to the parade his first year in office. His sons and friends convinced told him that "as the mayor of all the people, you have to represent all the people." He had a duty to go. He went that year and the years following and had a great time, he said.

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"If he went I think he would be surprised and he would find that they would be pretty nice. They're taking pride in what they are and who they are and that's wonderful. That's what people should be doing," Mr. Lastman said.

Many people in LGBT communities are disappointed by the Mr. Ford's decision.

"We've had a long history of our mayors participating in and showing support for Pride and I think that's where people's reactions are coming from," said Kim Koyama with Proud of Toronto, an LGBTQ advocacy group. "I think a lot of people are feeling that this is a really bad reflection on Toronto internationally. It's taking steps backwards," he added.

Alex McClelland with AIDS Action Now! a direct action activist group that focuses on the rights of people living with HIV, particularly men who have sex with men, said: "Ford's decision not to march in Pride this year is yet another move in a really concerning direction. Gay people are vital and engaged residents, voters and taxpayers in Toronto who deserve respect in social programs and a responsive municipal government."

Mr. Lastman thinks that the mayor will eventually change his mind on the issue. "Maybe not this year, but maybe next year," he said. "It's difficult to be embarrassed in front of the whole city because he has said things in the past and maybe he feels that he's going to be humiliated. I don't know. I sympathize with him for that reason."

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