Rob Ford overruled on rainbow flag at Toronto City Hall
Toronto Mayor says Olympics is about patriotism, not sexual preference
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford appears to have lost a fight to remove a rainbow flag flying at city hall.
The flag, an international symbol of gay rights, went up on one of the many flagpoles outside city hall on Friday, just as the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games were underway in Russia.
The flag-raising was meant as a response to Olympic host country Russia's anti-gay laws. Several other municipalities around Canada have done the same.
Ford wanted it taken down as soon as he saw it.
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The Olympics, "is about being patriotic to your country, this is not about someone's sexual preference," he told reporters.
But it's not his decision to have the flag taken down. The city's protocol officer is the only one who decides what flags fly from the city hall`s "courtesy" pole. That pole hosts all sorts of flags during the year — for autism week, fair trade, and to honour the national days of dozens of countries, from Azerbaijan to Israel. The Canadian flag is always flying on several other poles around city hall.
City Manager Joe Pennachetti sent a letter to the mayor and councillors reminding them of flag protocol on Friday afternoon.
Pennachetti noted the rainbow flag is flying at the request of the 519 Church Street Community Centre, the heart of Toronto's LGBT community, and will remain flying for the duration of the Olympics.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he supports keeping the rainbow flag up, saying it sends a message to the host country, which has been under fire for its anti-gay laws.
"There's no antagonism between the two flags," said Kelly. "Cities right across the country are doing this. This is an expression of Canadianism."
In protest, Ford placed a Canadian flag in his office window. Upon leaving city hall Friday evening, he said he still wants the rainbow flag removed.
The incident drew criticism from Toronto's only openly gay city councillor.
"I think he's clearly demonstrating that he's homophobic — that he is bigoted," Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam told CBC News.
It is the second time this week Ford has been accused of homophobia. He came under fire after remarking, during a debate of candidates in the upcoming mayoral election, that he would not attend the city's World Pride celebrations in June.
His brother, Coun. Doug Ford, insisted the mayor is not a homophobe.
Rainbow flags are currently flying in municipalities across Canada, including Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.
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Amid all the hub-bub over the flag, it emerged Friday that Toronto police are investigating a reported threat against Mayor Ford and his family.
Toronto Police Service said today it is looking into both a threat and a reported theft at City Hall, but offered no further details. Two uniformed officers visited Ford's office this afternoon.
With files from Jamie Strashin