Canada’s Federal Public Works Minister Michael Fortier received a not-so-friendly welcome from the estimated 40,000 attendees of the opening ceremony of Montreal’s World Outgames last weekend.

According to The Canadian Press, the Conservative senator’s speech was interrupted as he attempted to greet the crowd at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening.

The Conservatives have been criticised by members of the gay community over their plans to reopen the same-sex marriage debate this fall with a free vote in the Commons.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” spectators cried, wagging their upraised fingers in unison.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, who was greeted with sustained applause, intervened to urge the crowd to listen “with respect” to the representative of the Harper government, CP reports.

The reaction to Fortier came a day after Outgames performer k.d. lang chastised Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not participating in the opening ceremony. Officials in his office said his schedule couldn’t accommodate the event.

The only applause Fortier got was when he uttered the names of Canadian Olympic champion and Outgames co-president Mark Tewksbury and tennis great Martina Navratilova, who followed him out to read the Declaration of Montreal in English, French and Spanish, reports CanWest News Service.

CanWest also reports that the sports stars were warmly welcomed as they recalled that many countries still punish homosexuals. They called for the international community to apply pressure on these states and suggested that May 17 be proclaimed International Day against Homophobia.

The declaration is the product of the International Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights, held in conjunction with the Outgames.

According to the event’s Website, more than 12,000 athletes from around the world are participating in the Outgames, which runs until Aug. 6.

The event launches a week of competition during which 13,000 LGBT athletes will compete in 35 disciplines and an estimated 200,000 spectators will take in sporting and cultural events at venues across the city.

Montreal was originally awarded the Gay Games (held in Chicago July 15-22), but in a dispute over the number of participants, organization and fundamental philosophy about what the games represent, organizers broke away from the U.S-based Federation of Gay Games in 2003 and, with the support of other athletic groups, formed the Gay and Lesbian International Sporting Association.

Organisers are promising the event will inject as much as $170 million into Montreal’s economy and add to the city’s reputation as a gay-friendly tourism destination, CP reports.

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