08/20/2012 12:37 EDT | Updated 10/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Pride parade draws huge crowds, including politicians

Tens of thousands of people marched through downtown Montreal on Sunday in the city's annual pride parade.

The event turned René Lévesque Boulevard into a sea of colour as it the floats headed east toward Montreal's gay village.

A number of politicians marched in the parade, including several involved in the ongoing provincial election campaign. There were representatives of every major party and level of government in Quebec except the federal Conservatives. Laurent McCutcheon, a spokesperson for the parade, said the turnout of elected representatives was an important show of support to the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

Federal NDP and Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and party loyalists were there for the parade's opening kickoff. Afterward they marched en masse while some members waved flags and danced from the party's float.

"That's why I participate, year after year, in this parade. To celebrate diversity, to send a message of tolerance and acceptance, and maybe above all to send a positive message to youth who are struggling with identity problems at a certain time in their life," Mulcair said.

"This is part of education. People from all aspects of society getting together, all political parties — except one, unfortunately — coming out and saying 'Look, this is an important part of our society, we can feel good about our diversity and celebrate it.' "

The NDP has a bill before Parliament that would enhance Canada's hate-crime laws to make them apply to offences committed against people because of their "gender identity" or "gender expression" in addition to their sexual orientation, which is already protected.

'Important still today'

Liberal MP Denis Coderre, who represents the Montreal riding of Bourassa, took part in the parade as well. Coderre said LGBT rights must and will strengthen and are a critical human-rights cause that transcends party lines and geographic borders — even if the Conservative federal government has done little to protect sexual diversity.

Jean-Francois Perrier, a member of the Pride Montreal board of directors, said Sunday's parade was the biggest since his organization took over the event six years ago.

"It's just amazing, you know, it's important still today, I mean in Canada, in Quebec, Montreal," Perrier said. "I mean we have legal rights now, but it's important that those people in the community, LGBT community... can show what they're doing, be visible."

The parade, which began at Guy Street and René-Lévesque, finished near Sanguinet Street to the east, and was followed by a Pride Week closing party at Place Émilie-Gamelin.