TORONTO – Canada’s largest Pride parade marked another milestone Sunday as a sitting prime minister marched for the first time in a colourful celebration that was tempered by last month’s shooting massacre in Orlando, Fla.
Prominent in the procession was a pair of marchers who held a large black banner that read “Orlando” and “We march for those who can’t.”
There was also a moment of silence during the parade to remember the 49 people, predominantly LGBTQ, who were killed in a mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
A river of multi-coloured floats and marchers came to a halt on Yonge Street and stood in silence along with the masses of onlookers who lined both sides of the route.
A group of marchers, dressed in pastel-coloured robes, each carried signs with the name and age of an Orlando victim as they worked their way down the route.
Dana Giardino, who’s new to Toronto and was attending the parade for the first time, said seeing those names was a stand-out moment for her.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Florida tragedy is a reminder that “we can’t let hate go by.”
“We have to speak up anytime there is intolerance or discrimination,” he said as he marched.
Trudeau drew a boisterous reaction from those who lined Yonge Street to watch the parade go by — he has taken part in the parade before, including last summer, but this is his first as prime minister.
Members of the crowd, some decked out in rainbow gear and outlandish costumes, posed for selfies with the Prime Minister, sometimes chanting his name as he passed by.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Green Party leader Elizabeth May also took part in the parade.
Before the parade, Trudeau attended an outdoor church service in the heart of the city’s gay village where he sang along to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
He also took the day as an opportunity to tell local news station CP24 that the federal government is exploring the possibility of gender-neutral identification.
The parade wraps up a month of Pride festivities in Toronto, which saw entertainment heavyweights like George Takei and Lindsay Lohan participate.
The Orlando shooting also meant security was higher than usual at this year’s parade. Police officers, many wearing uniforms with the Pride rainbow on them, were visible even along streets adjacent to the parade route.
Many of the officers seemed to be enjoying the experience, posing for pictures and tweeting them.
The parade briefly stalled when activists from Black Lives Matter staged a sit-in on the parade route. But after talking to Pride officials, the sit-in ended peacefully and the parade continued.