Vancouver's annual Gay Pride Parade, the second largest in Canada, once again attracted hundreds of thousands of supporters, leaving former Harvey Milk prot�g� Cleve Jones feeling a little green.

"Coming from the states it's a little bittersweet for me," Jones said.

"We're here to celebrate the incredible progress made by the LBGT (lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgendered) community, but my country still lags woefully behind."

Jones, one of the 2009 parade grand marshals, was recently portrayed by actor Emile Hirsche in the 2008 biopic Milk. Looking back on his time with the former San Francisco civic politician, Jones most remembers Milk's ability to draw support to their cause.

"He was a father figure to me, a mentor," Jones said.

"He wasn't a genius or a saint, but he had the most genuine ability to connect with all different kinds of people and find common ground. That's how you build a movement."

Related: Vancouver Pride Society homepage

Organizers estimate 700,000 spectators showed up in downtown Vancouver Sunday, topping the half a million supporters who turned out in 2008.

"My favourite part about the parade is definitely seeing all the straight people here," Jones' fellow grand marshal Jeremy Dias said.

"It's going to be an incredible display of celebration, liberation and education."

Dias garnered national attention successfully suing his former Ontario school board for discrimination, a suit which resulted in the largest human rights settlement in Canadian history.

With his settlement, Dias founded a scholarship program called Jer's Vision that has since blossomed into an international charity.

But despite what he sees as great progress, Dias says Canada still has a long way to go.

"The reality is that even kids in Vancouver still experience bullying in their schools," he said.

"Violence still exists."