TORONTO – Toronto’s controversial mayor has ordered city staff to take down a rainbow flag that was raised outside city hall Friday in support of gay and human rights as the Olympic Games begin in Sochi.
Rob Ford said he wants to see the Canadian flag raised instead.
“This is about the Olympics. This is about being patriotic to your country. This is not about someone’s sexual preference,” he said.
When told the gesture was meant to protest anti-gay laws in Russia, Ford replied: “Let Russia do what they want. We’re Canadians here.”
At least one city councillor agreed with the mayor.
“If the city of Toronto was to fly a flag, I believe it should be the Canadian flag or I think it should be the Olympic flag,” Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said.
“This should be about sport and about Canadians.”
Toronto is one of several Canadian cities — including Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton — to fly the rainbow flag, a long-standing symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and pride.
Ford has previously come under fire for his staunch refusal to attend Toronto’s gay pride parade that marches through the downtown core each summer.
In the past, Ford had said his refusal to attend the event was due to a family tradition of spending the Canada Day long weekend at the cottage.
But when asked Thursday if he was planning to attend this year’s World Pride parade, Ford said: “I’ve never been to a pride parade. So I’m not going to change the way I am.”
The mayor’s remarks prompted criticism from the public and at least one fellow city councillor, who accused him of “thinly veiled homophobia.”
The mayor’s councillor brother, Doug Ford, denied that either he or his brother are homophobic. He said he felt uncomfortable bringing his kids to an event where “middle-aged men with pot bellies” ran down the street “buck naked.”