1024px-Rainbow flag breeze

-by Anne Finlay-Stewart

I applaud Mayor Boddy for making remarks before the opening of Owen Sound City Council last Monday, in the wake of the Orlando shootings. He spoke about people not being persecuted for "the colour of their skin, who they love, what they go home to". He talked about Owen Sound's history as a safe haven for the ostracized, and how he understood that there were Pride events taking place locally this month and people should attend them to show our city's empathy and compassion.

Bottom line. No one deserves to be shot for being who they are. What then do they deserve?

June 1, the Owen Sound city Facebook page - Wishing everyone a Happy Pride Month. The City of OwenSound supports our LGBT community. Equality for everyone! The image, a fluttering rainbow flag!

I almost choked on my morning coffee. Of course the city's Communications Advisor had no way of knowing about the Pride flag debacle of 2005. He did not know that the City's official policy is to fly nothing but government flags, and that the policy was the result of an ugly protest by local church members at a ceremony to raise the Pride flag at city hall. A city councillor holding his young child was publicly and loudly told that it would have been better for that child never to have been born than to be in a family like his. I often wonder what his wife would have said to that protester, had she not been at her teaching job at the time.

The city's response to this hate was to ban flags.

When questioned about how the City supports its LGBT community, the city's representative said they did not discriminate in their hiring practices (in other words they do not break the law) and that they encourage people to attend Pride events.
Is that what constitutes support in this community?

When the subject of the flag policy was raised in a public deputation to Council last year, spurred by a letter from a local service club who wanted to celebrate a regional gathering, councillors refused to even ask staff for a report on the subject. This year the Pride flag is flying on our own Parliament Hill, and this week over American embassies around the world, but in Owen Sound it remains in a static Facebook post now three weeks old.

Last night the LGBT community and their true supporters gathered at a vigil that was well-shared on Facebook and announced on local radio. It was an act of grieving, of solidarity, and frankly of courage. It was the first public opportunity since the Mayor's remarks on Monday for the City to show support for its LGBT residents, yet no one from the city was there.

We would understand if the LGBT community were afraid to gather. We know what they have to fear. It is much less clear what our City Council is afraid of. The world has changed in the decade since the Pride flag came down at city hall. Let's raise the subject, and the flag, again.

Yes there will be Pride celebrations this month. A prom, parties, singing, dancing and lots of rainbow flags. And you will be welcome. As will the Mayor, councillors and city staff.




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