Montreal: Huge crowds attended Sunday`s gay pride parade in Montreal, including several candidates in the upcoming general elections, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper was conspicuously absent.
The Conservative leader has not attended a Montreal gay pride parade since it first started nine years ago.
The leader of the Liberal party, Justin Trudeau, and the left-leaning New Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair, were both present.
Mulcair said Harper`s absence sent a clear message.
"His absence every year shows that he has a total lack of interest when it comes to protecting the rights of people around Canada," Mulcair said.
Trudeau didn`t weigh in on Harper`s no-show, but instead vowed to fight for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people.
"We are here to listen to the views of that community and we want to be sure that we can support it," he said.
"We will defend the rights of all Canadians, and particularly these days those of the trans people."
Sunday`s gay pride parade was a family-friendly event, with a moment of silence observed to commemorate the victims of HIV/AIDS and homophobia.
The event organizers urged greater awareness for transsexual people, who they said have been stigmatized for too long.
"Trans people represent three percent of the LGBT community, and they have been in the shadows for too long, we need to create room for them," Montreal Pride organizer and spokesperson Jasmin Roy said.
Canada is holding general elections on October 19, with Harper seeking a fourth term in office. He has been prime minister since 2006.