Watch the video above: Rob Ford wants gay pride flag outside of city hall taken down. Mark McAllister reports.
TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford wants a rainbow flag raised outside of city hall in support of gay rights in Russia to be taken down and replaced by the Canadian flag.
“This is about the Olympics, this is about being patriotic to your country,” Ford said at city hall. “This is not about sexual preference.”
The flag was put up on the city’s ceremonial flagpole in support of gay rights in Russia which have been stamped out by recent legislation banning “gay propaganda” in the 2014 Olympics’ host country.
“It may be relevant to you, I support the Canadians and I’m a patriotic person towards our country.”
Despite the mayor’s lamentations, there are Canadian flags elsewhere in Nathan Phillips Square. Along the Bay Street side of the square there are several Canadian flags flying alongside international flags.
Ford’s criticism comes just two days after he said he would never attend the city’s pride parade.
Watch: Denzil Minnan-Wong backs Ford, wants Olympic flag at city hall.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told reporters at city hall that he sees no difference in the symbol of the rainbow flag and what it means to be Canadian, calling it an “expression of Canadianism.”
“There’s no antagonism between the two flags,” he said. “[It] is also a statement that we’re not afraid to stand up for the rights and privileges that are being abused in other parts of the world. So there’s nothing un-Canadian about that. In fact that’s a very Canadian thing to do to be concerned and care about others.”
Kelly said he hopes the flag will stay up for the duration of the Olympic Games.
Councillor Anthony Perruzza went into the mayor’s office Friday afternoon and suggested flying both the rainbow flag and the Canadian flag.
“I think we can fly both. We can fly both the Canadian flag as well as the rainbow flag,” he said.
Watch: Flaherty says Ford has ‘been a good mayor’
He added that the mayor agreed to his request but the mayor has yet to confirm that.
Kelly didn’t know whether the mayor has the ability to have the flag taken down. It was put up Friday morning by the city’s protocol office at the request of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Kelly said.
Several cities across the country are showing similar signs of support for gay rights, including Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton and St. John’s.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson went so far as to say he doesn’t want the votes of anyone who doesn’t support raising the rainbow flag.
Watch: Norm Kelly says raising the flag at city hall was a “very Canadian thing to do.”
It isn’t unusual for Toronto to raise non-Canadian flags outside city hall: Last month was Alzheimer Awareness Day; later this month is the flag of Saint Lucia.
Councillor Sarah Doucette was visibly angry at the suggestion the flag should be taken down, calling the mayor’s protest “absolutely ridiculous.”
“I am upset by this. Athletes are amazing people, they dedicate their lives and if a rainbow represents something to those athletes, it should be flying,” she told reporters at city hall. “If he’s not prepared to change then I don’t think he should be mayor.”
Other city councillors took to Twitter to show their support for both the flying of the rainbow flag and Kelly’s defence of it.