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Rob Fod Vs the Gay Pride Parade

CANADA - No Rob Ford? No problem.

With an estimated crowd of over 1 million people, Toronto's Gay Pride Parade went off with its usual rainbow-esque festivities as Torontonians celebrated 31 years of Pride, despite Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's controversial absence.

Where was Rob Ford? He was hiding up north in his cottage, avoiding everything to do with the Gay Pride Parade. Homophobic? Maybe. Or more likely he is trying to win votes from the white middle class suburbanites who elected him mayor in the first place.

The record-breaking event this year was more than a massive celebration that takes over several city streets. The parade is a constant reminder that there is still a lot to do to achieve equal rights for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities worldwide.

And the fact Toronto's own mayor refused to go really hammers home the concept that this is an important equal rights issue, even if you're not gay and have no interest in the LGBT community.

The three-hour parade, the largest of its kind in Canada, is part of the largest gay festival in North America (which means its also one of the biggest in the world) involves a 10-day Pride Week that generates about $100 million for Toronto's economy and draws 10s of thousands of tourists to Toronto.

Rob Ford claims he skipped the parade to continue a family tradition of spending Canada Day in cottage country. He also skipped all the other Pride events held earlier in the week, including a rainbow flag raising at city hall. He avoided everything and anything to do with being gay.

Ford has already faced plenty of criticism and accusations of homophobia.

In the parade some people waved signs denouncing Rob Ford, while others poked fun at him by covering their faces or genitals with cardboard cut-outs of Ford's face.

It was the first time since 1994 that Toronto's sitting mayor didn't march in the parade. Former mayors Barbara Hall and David Miller came out to attend.

As Miller shook hands one young man shouted: "Our old mayor is better than our new one," which drew a chorus of cheers. David Miller declined to comment about Ford's absence and focused on the positive instead.

"I believe this event shows Toronto at its best," says David Miller, who was Toronto's mayor until Ford took over in fall 2010. "In our city, everybody's welcome."

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