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Toronto's celebrates 32nd annual LGBTQ Pride Parade


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(CTV.ca) -- Crowds of revellers toting rainbow flags marched through the streets of Toronto on Sunday as thousands celebrated the city’s 32 annual Pride Parade.

The internationally renowned event, devoted to tolerance and combating homophobia, formally kicked off at 2 p.m. at Bloor and Church Streets in the city’s downtown core. The theme for this year’s event was “Celebrate and Demonstrate.”

Onlookers stood behind barricades cheering on participants, many of them decked out in the colourful, festive outfits that have become a hallmark of the parade.

Like similar marches held in urban centres around the world, Toronto’s parade blends celebration and demonstration -- rejoicing in differences while still making a statement about various political issues.

This year’s celebration was co-led by Ontario’s Education Minister Laurel Broten. She said she was participating in the parade in honour of the recently passed Accepting Schools Act.

“It feels great. It’s a great recognition of the work that happened at Queen’s Park this year, which gave voice to many people who haven’t had strong voices in the past,” Broten told CTV Toronto.

High school teacher Amanda Bradley said she believed the victories of the gay-rights movement are increasingly part of Canada’s cultural fabric.

“I have a certain number of students who are queer and I think Canada’s culture and traditions are changing and becoming more accepting,” the 27-year-old said.

The world-famous parade drew thousands of onlookers, many who travelled from outside the country, to catch a glimpse of the festivities. The event capped off a 10-day festival celebrating Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited and transsexual community.

Cities such as Madrid, Paris and Dublin have already hosted similar pride parades this year, attracting thousands of participants.

Most recently, riot police were present in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on Saturday after 2,000 demonstrators held a gay pride rally, calling for sexual diversity and equality.

Prior to the event, ambassadors for several countries -- including Argentina, Great Britain, Denmark and France -- issued a joint statement calling the Sofia Pride March “an opportunity to promote human rights and tolerance, celebrate diversity, and denounce homophobia."

Among the many groups who marched in Toronto were Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), a gay-rights group that has drawn criticism by calling for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

A number of city councillors had threatened to pull funding for Toronto’s Pride parade in 2011 if QuAIA marched in the parade. This year, the Pride Toronto Dispute Resolution Panel granted the group permission shortly before Pride weekend began.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, however, was again not present at this year’s festival.

Despite surprising crowdsby appearing at a rainbow flag-raising event in May, Ford skipped the parade for the second year in a row to spend time at his family cottage.

Maple Leaf’s general manager Brian Burke did march in the parade, despite it being the first day of NHL free agency.

“I’m not a big July 1 guy anyways. I think our group makes more mistakes on July 1 than we do the rest of the year,” said Burke, who marched in the parade in honour of his son.

“I first came to this parade with my son and I want to continue this work,” he added.

Excitement at the Pride parade ran particularly high this year as attendees looked forward to 2014, when Toronto will become the first North American city to host the World Pride festival.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot and files from The Canadian Press


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