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Saskatoon Mayor's Office Apologizes For Statement About "Lifestyle Choices" After Orlando Shooting

Don Atchison, mayor since 2003, has never attended a pride parade.

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The mayor's office in Saskatoon has apologized for citing "lifestyle choices" following the Orlando shooting that killed dozens of LGBTQ people.

Liam Richards / The Canadian Press

Mayor Don Atchison released a statement this week condemning the massacre at Pulse nightclub, where the shooter, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others.

“Everyone should be safe in our communities regardless of their lifestyle choices, religion or ethnicity," read the statement, attributed to Atchison. "Acts of terrorism and hate must not divide us, rather we must unite as a community against them."

City councillor Darren Hill called out the mayor's statement as "ignorant" on his Facebook page. "49 people were not gunned down because of a lifestyle choice! They were brutally killed out of hate because they were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer."

Facebook: darrenthill

Hill was joined by at least one other councillor in condemning the mayor's statement.

Referencing "lifestyle" is considered offensive to many in the queer community because it implies people are choosing to be queer, rather than living as their true selves.

According to GLAAD, the phrase suggests that a person's "orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be 'cured'."

Atchison's spokesperson, Richard Brown, later took responsibility for the mayor's statement. "I chose my words poorly and for that I take full responsibility and apologize," he told The StarPhoenix.

DonAtchisonSaskatoon / Facebook

Atchison is Saskatoon's longest-serving mayor. He was first elected in 2003, and he has never attended a pride parade in the city, usually citing scheduling conflicts. This year was the first time he attended the raising of a pride flag at city hall.

Last year, after a widely circulated letter criticized Atchison for missing 13 consecutive pride parades in his own city, the mayor responded that he didn't "understand what the big concern is over all of this, because I think we all belong to one race, and that's the human race."

Atchison missed this year's pride parade, held June 11, to celebrate his father's 90th birthday.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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