TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford went into the weekend demanding the Pride flag be taken down at Toronto City Hall.
Ford ignited the flag flap less than an hour after the city — like many other cities across Canada — raised the rainbow flag to show solidarity with gay rights advocates in Russia during the Olympics.
Despite outrage from councillors and rights advocates, Ford vowed to keep fighting to have the Pride flag taken down.
“It’s not up to council,” Ford said as he left his office Friday night.
Just moments after the Pride flag was raised as the Winter Olympics began, Ford burst out in front of reporters to show off the Canadian flag he’d placed in the mayor’s office window.
He also promised to have the Pride flag removed from the city’s ceremonial flag pole that is used to fly different flags for different causes at the request of community groups.
“This is not about someone’s sexual preference,” Ford said. “No, I do not agree with putting up the rainbow flag. We should put our Canadian flag up. I put my Canadian flag up in the window.”
Ford said he’s called city manager Joe Pennachetti and asked him to remove the flag. City officials said they have yet to receive that request.
“It’s the Olympics — this is about being patriotic to your country,” Ford said.
He dismissed a question about whether he supported the gay community or not as “irrelevant to the point.”
Ford’s flag outrage comes just a few days after he admitted he will continue to skip Toronto’s Pride parade despite the fact the city is hosting World Pride this year.
City officials granted a request from the 519 Community Centre to fly the flag for the next two weeks. An e-mail from Pennachetti to councillors confirmed the city’s policy requirements were met to replace the Toronto flag with the rainbow flag as requested until Feb. 23 — the final day of the Sochi Games.
Most councillors were outraged at Ford’s deman and vowed to fight for the Pride flag to go back up if the mayor got his way and had it removed.
Councillor John Parker supported the fact that the Pride flag was flying at this time,
“I’m sorry that Rob Ford has decided to align himself with Vladimir Putin,” Parker said.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam — who was in Nathan Phillips Square to watch the flag being raised earlier in the day — said Ford was “by himself in a room” on the issue.
“There are mayors across the (country) who have proudly raised the rainbow flag from coast to coast ... to demonstrate support for a community that is being persecuted,” Wong-Tam said. “It doesn’t take anything away from Canada, in many ways it dovetails into the Canadian values that we already know which is standing up for human rights.”
It was clear Ford was “letting it all hang loose” and is demonstrating that he is “homophobic” and “bigoted,” she said.
Deputy mayor Norm Kelly said displaying the Pride flag on the city’s courtesy flag pole doesn’t take away from the Canadian flag — which flies on its own flag pole in Nathan Phillips Square.
“There is nothing un-Canadian about that,” Kelly said about the Pride flag.
But Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the city has made a mess of the whole issue and argued they should be focused on cheering on Canadian athletes.
“The Olympics are about sport and they shouldn’t be about politics,” Minnan-Wong said. “This is just ... another fine mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into.”
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