TORONTO – The skies filled with bubbles and joy ran through the streets of Toronto on Sunday as thousands of colorfully dressed people marched in Canada’s largest Pride parade in a community facing rising levels of hate and intolerance. expressed his support for
Huge crowds gathered in the city centre, many waving rainbow fans under sunny skies and trying to beat the heat.
Many said they felt extra encouraged to attend this year’s parade because LGBTQ people face increasing attacks on their hard-earned rights, both at home and abroad.
“Pride is a celebration but it’s also a protest,” said Sarah Rice, who came from London, Ontario, to attend the festivities.
“I think this year especially, it’s important for the gay community to come out, be visible and make our voices heard.”
Rice described the present times as scary, citing efforts to roll back rights in some places.
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Closer to home, statistics from Statistics Canada show that police-reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have increased by about 64 per cent in Canada between 2020 and 2021. Efforts to remove books containing LGBTQ content and to prevent the flying of the pride flag have also reached a tipping point. Protesters protesting drag shows have opened fire in some Canadian locations, while some at schools and billboards.
On Sunday, some marchers carried banners with slogans such as “Protect trans youth” and “Protect trans children”.
The increasingly controversial atmosphere prompted Pride event planners in Toronto and beyond to significantly increase security measures. The federal government also provided emergency funding of over $1.3 million to help with security costs at the Pride event.
Pride Toronto, the organizer of Sunday’s parade of at least 250 participating groups, said it spent twice as much money on policing for this year’s event as in 2022.
But attendees said the climate that makes the extra security necessary makes it even more important to celebrate Pride and show solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
Grace Cywinski and Ava Dobmeier flew in from Pennsylvania for the event.
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Like Rice, they said they came both to celebrate and to protest.
“It’s important to show Pride because you have to show that this is a huge community and we are a loving community. We’re proud of who we are,” Cywinski said.
“It’s fun to party and celebrate your culture and who you are.”
Georgi Sauntos upheld a decades-old tradition of celebrating Pride by participating in Sunday’s march. The 65-year-old Torontonian said she’s been coming to Pride since attendance numbered in the tens and hundreds, a far cry from the crowds that fill major arteries like Yonge Street and Church Street on Sunday afternoons.
“We are here, we are loud, we are proud, we count,” Sountos said.
Soundos had a message for the younger generation of LGBTQ people: “Just be who you are. Be proud and show it.”
He encouraged people who feel alone or feel like they have no way to talk to others and use any programs available to them.
The march was also attended by some prominent politicians, including federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and a handful of candidates hoping to be elected as the city’s mayor in a by-election on Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has previously attended Toronto’s Pride parade, did not attend this year’s festivities due to a two-day summit of Nordic leaders in Iceland.
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