Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark led a gay pride parade in Calgary Sunday, becoming the first former prime minister of Canada to take on the role of grand marshal.

With his wife Maureen McTeer at his side, Clark led the hour-long parade from the back of a red convertible, waving to thousands of spectators at the annual event.

It was the same community that helped Clark get elected as the MP for Calgary Centre.

Clark said he was proud to accept the invitation, although his decision drew an angry response from some religious groups, including members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church.

"I'm here because I was invited to do this by my community and my constituency and I'm very honoured to do that," he said.

Rev. Fred Phelps and some of his followers, who have picketed gay pride parades all over the United States, were planning to be on hand in Calgary to spread their anti-gay message.

But church members decided against coming to Canada, explaining they didn't receive assurances that they would be able to cross the border without being arrested.

Phelps' church is also known for picketing the funerals of gay men who have died of AIDS and for carrying placards with such slogans as "God hates fags."