If you have been following the news in recent weeks, you could be forgiven if you mistook the antics of various Canadian politicians for those of a troupe in a three-ring circus.
From the fracturing of the New Democratic Party in this province to the outrageous expense claims of some Canadian senators and the uproar over how to discipline them and who knew what, members of the media have been having a feeding frenzy trying to cover all aspects of the stories and digging into every nook and cranny to find the latest updates to keep us entertained.
This week, another political story that has been brewing for months exploded onto the national spotlight when it was revealed that Toronto police had obtained a copy of a video that purports to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
While the focus of this story seems to revolve around the drug use, there are other elements to the story that have not been receiving as much media attention. Nonetheless, these elements are concerning to members of Toronto's gay and lesbian community.
Some members of the media have screened the video and have indicated that it does appear to show Ford smoking from a crack pipe and joking around with a group of young men.
The drug use has drawn virtually all the attention; however, Mayor Ford is also allegedly overheard making racist and homophobic comments during the video. Specifically — and somewhat ironically — in a conversation about politics, Ford refers to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as a “fag.”
There has been little to no attention in the media about this aspect of the story, and Ford — who previously denied crack use and even the very existence of any video — has admitted that he did, indeed, smoke crack and he apologized to the people of Toronto for his “mistakes.”
He did not, however, apologize for the homophobic comment and it does not appear that the issue was even raised by reporters.
If this was just one isolated comment, Ford could maybe be forgiven and his remark attributed to the fact that he was very much under the influence at the time; this is the defence he is using for the crack use.
However, the homophobic comment reflects a pattern that has been in existence since Ford was elected mayor. Despite the fact that Toronto Pride is one of the largest celebrations in North America and brings millions of dollars to the city, Ford has refused to participate in the pride march as his predecessors have done, saying this is a family weekend for him.
This sounds reasonable, except for the fact that Toronto Pride is a week of activities and the mayor has not participated in any of the events throughout the week, effectively snubbing an entire community of people living in his city.
While many Torontonians are concerned about the international reputation of the city because of a crack-smoking mayor, they should also be concerned about having a homophobic mayor.
This issue has already been raised by members of the gay and lesbian community in Toronto, and it speaks directly to the reputation of the city. Toronto has been selected to host WorldPride, a large international gathering of elected officials and global human rights leaders, this coming June. The event is set to kick off with an opening reception at city hall.
The reception is an official event for the city of Toronto, and organizers have indicated they are strongly considering uninviting Mayor Ford to the reception.
One of the reasons Toronto was selected for this gathering was because of its diverse community and healthy and thriving gay community living in the city. It’s an opportunity to showcase this diversity to the world.
The actions and statements of this mayor are an embarrassment and may make visitors question whether Toronto is as gay-friendly as it portrays itself to be.
When the man in the city’s top political post makes homophobic remarks, avoids the gay community and makes no effort to apologize for his statements, it does not send the message that Toronto is a safe and welcoming place for gay and lesbian visitors.
The international reputation of our largest city and the country as a whole is being affected by the actions of our politicians, and it has not been favourable recently.
As a nation, we cherish our reputation as a land that celebrates diversity and provides freedoms to all of our citizens.
This freedom has become just as much a part of the Canadian mosaic as the various ethnic groups and cultures that call this place home.
During this weekend, when we remember the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in years past to fight for and protect these freedoms, we should be reminding our politicians that it is to protect these values that they have been elected, not to line their own pockets or to score points off their political rivals.
I am sure that many, or most, of our politicians will be present at Remembrance Day ceremonies this Monday to be seen; it is high time that we insisted their actions live up to the appearance they are trying to portray.
Brian Hodder is a past-chairman
of Newfoundland Gays and Lesbians