The Hope Pride Committee (HPC) stated they are disappointed and sad after Hope council voted not to raise a flag flying Pride colours during the official Pride month in June.
Last Monday’s (March 27) council meeting saw councillors Zachary Wells, Angela Skoglund, and Pauline Newbigging cite neutrality and “being fair to all groups of Hope” as reasons against raising the flag. Councillors Crystal Sedore and Heather Stewin voted in favour of raising the flag. Coun. Scott Medlock was not in attendance during the meeting.
The 3-2 vote is considered a setback for local Pride organizers.
“We haven’t given up hope yet,” said HPC founding member Megan te Boekhorst. “We are saddened by council’s decision. It’s just a shame that the district doesn’t want to be involved in a way that has significant importance and value and history to the LGBTQIA2S+ community.”
Council first heard the HPC’s request during the March 13 council meeting when te Boekhorst gave a presentation explaining their plans for Hope’s first Pride month, and the importance of the Pride flag for Hope’s large LGBTQIA2S+ community.
“Raising a flag is such a small act in the bigger picture. But it’s such a meaningful act to the queer community, especially to those who have experienced the oppression, it has so much importance to us,” te Boekhorst said.
During the March 27 meeting, Wells expressed concerns that raising the flag would ostracize other groups in the community.
“We did for sure, say, in the idea of keeping our town inclusive, it’s best if our government — our local body — stays neutral,” Wells said. “We have religious groups that do not agree with the LGBTQ. So, what are we saying to them [religious groups] if we decide to fly their [LGBTQIA2S+ community] flag? We’re now ostracizing our own community — members that live in our community.”
Mayor Victor Smith [Mayor], Skoglund and Newbigging also had concerns that it could open up the door to other groups of Hope wanting to raise their flags, as well as legality issues for the district.
“I’ve talked to other communities and what they’ve done is, they’ve stayed neutral because of concerns about issues from all the other [groups] that have come forward to them. And they’re scared about the legalities of turning one down and promoting another one,” Smith said. “It’s not a good thing. It’s unfortunate. But not everybody plays nicely in the sandbox.”
Te Boekhorst, who is also a board member of the Chilliwack Pride Committee, said that both the councillors, and mayor’s, concern of “opening the door to other groups’ flags” hasn’t been an issue for many other B.C. municipalities who’ve raised the flag.
With the division between the LGB and LGBTQ+Activists Agenda, communities could probably ask themselves, what is the motivation for flying a Gay Pride Flag.
She also said she would like to know which communities Smith talked to.
“Hope has never received a request to raise any other flag,” she said. “And I have yet to hear any stories, out of the communities I listed, who have challenges in having overwhelming amounts of flag raising requests [from other groups].
“With the queer community there is history with the flag. There is symbolism with the flag that is unique to the queer community. And if other marginalized communities want their flags raised, what’s the harm?”
Te Boekhorst also said that the council choosing to remain neutral does nothing to support marginalized groups.
“When it comes to oppression, there is no such thing as neutrality. When it comes to hate, there is no such thing as neutrality. You either support the oppressed or you’re standing with the oppressor in your silence.”
This sentiment was shared and expressed by Stewin and Sedore during the meeting.
“I want Hope to be an inclusive community. And remaining neutral, I’m sorry, that statement says I don’t want to make the decision,” Stewin said. “As a person who is often excluded because of a disability, inclusion seems to only matter to people who are being excluded. It shouldn’t be that way. Inclusion should be important to every single person in this community.”
Te Boekhorst said she’s received comments, after council made their decision, by members — including those not publicly out — expressing great sadness and fear about living in Hope.
“I don’t know the councillors very well, and [their decision] isn’t necessarily a homophobic act. But, I think for a lot of them, their decision comes from a lack of understanding. And a lack of understanding of how actions like this hurt,” she said.
According to te Boekhorst, flying the Pride flag would have demonstrated council’s allyship to the LGBTQIA2S+ community. It would have shown the LGBTQIA2S+ community, in a meaningful manner that required “little effort on council’s part,” that the district does not tolerate hate — emotional, physical, passive, and aggressive — towards the community and that members, especially youth, could feel safe to be themselves in Hope.
She added that it would have shown that council does not place the discomfort, or comfort, of those with privilege over the traumatic history that the LGBTQIA2S+ community has gone through.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions on what makes a safe community. And you know, I was asked, ‘can we consider Hope, a safe community for the LGBTQ community?’ Every town has homophobia, or transphobia. But the question is, will your town have your back or your oppressors back?” te Boekhorst said. “If an instance of hate happens, what will the people in power do? Will they call out against it? Will they say it’s not welcome in this town? Raising the flag would tell the queer community that if something were to happen, the leaders of this community would support us and they would advocate for us.
“We’ve asked for their support in one way and they’ve said no. So, I would love to hear how they would like to support us. And how they would like to show their support and how they would like to demonstrate their inclusion. Because inclusion is more than just saying we’re inclusive. It’s actually being inclusive.”
Despite this setback, te Boekhorst said that, though the district won’t fly the flag at the District hall, a Pride flag will be flown in Hope; after learning about council’s decision, te Boekhorst said she was approached by others in Hope offering to fly the flag at their building. She said she is also incredibly grateful to the allyship that the Hope RCMP has given the LGBTQIA2S+ community, and their support of Hope Pride.
“They’ve been an incredible partner,” te Boekhorst said. “There’s a large amount of support for Hope’s first Pride and for this Pride month from the local queer community and our allies. And businesses are starting to get behind it.”
Mission Mayor wants to clarify Pride flag decision
City of Mission continues to stand for inclusion, not division, says mayor
Apr. 3, 2023
Re: “Pride flag won’t fly at City of Mission facilities,” published online Mar. 21:
Please allow me to clarify that Council’s recent decision not to fly flags from community groups and related to causes on the City’s flagpole was simply a practical matter meant to avoid the costly and distracting process of dealing with flag requests. It was not meant as a gesture to signify any disrespect or to dismiss the LGBTQ2S+ community. The City of Mission continues to stand for inclusion, not division. While we may not have chosen to fly the Pride flag on the City Hall pole, we will continue to advance the message of inclusion in other ways.
Last year, when the Fraser Valley Youth Society asked us to support them in bringing the Fraser Valley Pride Celebration to Mission, our Council was supportive because inclusion is one of our treasured values. We helped them expedite the process of planning the event and we hosted their flag at the Leisure Centre. Council was present at the Festival and found it to be a very successful and well attended event. I anticipate that we will support the message and work of Pride once again this year.
In the coming weeks, I expect that our Council will consider the creation of an Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The work of that committee will include working to increase awareness and acceptance of marginalized people and to reduce hatred.
Mission has a long-standing tradition of neighbourliness and the future we envision for our community is one where we all accept and appreciate our neighbours. When we do so, great things happen.
City of Mission
Pride flag won’t fly at City of Mission facilities
Council voted for a policy to raise the federal, provincial, municipal and poppy flags exclusively
The pride flag won’t fly at City of Mission facilities for the foreseeable future.
At Monday’s (March 20) council meeting, the council voted 5-1 to exclusively raise the Canadian flag, provincial flag and municipal flag at city locations.
The lone exception will be the replacement of the municipal flag during Veterans’ Week with the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy flag.
Coun. Ken Herar was the lone dissenting vote on the motion, with Coun. Jag Gill absent for the meeting. Herar previously motioned to fly the progress pride flag at city hall in June, and council directed staff to review its flag policy.
“I feel disappointment with the outcome regarding council’s choice of a new revised policy that would prevent other flags from flying at city hall,” Herar said. “Human rights and visibility connects people to the flag. When you examine the history of the creation of the flag you see the struggles and challenges of the past and those that still exist today.”
During pride week in 2022, the progress pride flag was displayed at the Mission Leisure Centre during Fraser Valley Pride Week instead of a municipal building.
City of Mission staff provided council with three options to clarify its flag policy on Monday. The first option was to maintain the status quo, the second was to allow for council to raise a flag for a nationally-recognized holiday or event, and the third was to allow council to consider requests to raise other flags at city locations.
An edited version of the first option passed through a motion from Mayor Paul Horn. Horn says it’s not up to cities to provide places for people to fly their flags.
“I think what we needed was a neatening up of our policy, but not much more than that,” Horn said. “We will continue to support anything to do with diversity in our community and I am very strongly in support of inclusiveness, including the LGBTQIA2S+ population, and any other group. But I don’t think that changing our flag policy increases dialogue. Instead, it just increases controversy.”
The council did amend other aspects of its flag policy on Monday with unanimous votes.
With the new amendments to the policy, flags will be half-masted at the passing of current and past mayors or members of council. Additionally, the mayor can consult with the chief administrative officer and approve the half-masting of flags in exceptional circumstances on occasions not provided for in the policy.
The flag policy was last amended in April of 2022 to include the half-masting of flags to mark the passing of a Freedom of the City award recipient.
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