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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford shown during a special council meeting at City Hall in Toronto in this November 18, 2013, file photo.

Aaron Harris/REUTERS

Councillor Doug Ford defended his brother, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, for saying he will not go to the Pride Parade again this year, saying it's his prerogative.

"He's not homophobic," the councillor said. "He has friends who are gay. He just chooses not to go."

Mayor Ford said in a mayoral debate on Wednesday that he will not be attending the event this summer when Toronto hosts World Pride. In the past, the mayor has said he would not attend because the event conflicts with a family tradition at the cottage. But Wednesday night, he made his views on the event clear: "I'm not going to go to Pride parade. I've never gone to a Pride parade, so I'm not going to change the way I am," he said.

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The mayor attended a rainbow flag-raising event last year for family and friends of the lesbian and gay community, but did not attend the parade itself.

The mayor's comments sparked criticism from his colleagues on council, with Councillor Shelley Carroll saying that "the fact that he refuses to attend is thinly veiled homophobia."

She said that attending events like Pride is a "part of the gig" of being mayor, and she compared his comments to those of Russian President Vladimir Putin's remarks on gay people.

Kevin Beaulieu, executive director of Pride Toronto, said on Thursday that the group has not yet issued invitations to the event, and that he is surprised to hear that the mayor has already declined.

"I've often said, and I stand by it, that the mayor should want to be at Pride," Mr. Beaulieu said. "It's an opportunity to show one's support for the LGBT communities, which are still in the struggle for equality and acceptance."

Asked whether he thinks that the mayor is homophobic, Mr. Beaulieu said that is not for him to determine. But he said that "I think that the comments that we've heard and have been captured on video are. And I think they're deeply troubling and deeply disturbing and should be questioned."

Last year's Pride event had a $286-million economic impact on the city, Mr. Beaulieu said, with more than 1.2 million people attending. And with Toronto hosting this year's World Pride, he said, he is estimating that up to two million people will show up.

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Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who met briefly with Mr. Beaulieu on Thursday morning, said he plans on attending this year's Pride, adding that the event will "project Toronto all across the world."

Councillor Ford said he does not think that Pride is a family-friendly event.

"I brought my kids down there. I wouldn't bring my kids back when there's buck-naked men running down the street," he said. "That's not dissing anyone in the gay community. There's a lot of great people who make up the city in the gay community, who are friends of mine. But no, do I condone men running down the middle of Yonge Street buck naked? Absolutely not."

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