By Greg Price
Make no mistake, Taber made inroads last week in its decision to allow a Gay Pride flag to be flown in the Town of Taber at last Monday’s town council meeting.
Passing by the slimmest of 4-3 margins, town council authorized the flying of the Pride flag on the town’s flagpole located on the southeast corner of Confederation Park (behind the Administration Building) in June.
The decision is historical as far as the town joining other municipalities who have made similar choices across Canada in raising the flag as part of Pride celebrations designated for June.
But while town council should be applauded for its decision, for now it should be a polite golf clap rather than a standing ovation given the puzzling logic used by some dissenters, showing we still have a ways to go to achieve the perceived ‘equality’ by some.
Going against administration’s original recommendation by a 5-2 vote to support the Taber Equality Alliance’s request to fly the Pride flag for a mere day at the shared flag location in front of the administration building, it was instead relegated to the town’s rear flag pole at the southeast corner of Confederation Park.
Apart from Coun.(s) Rick Popadynetz and Laura Ross-Giroux’s endorsement of the original motion to have the flag flown for one day at the front of the building, the decision gives off a sort of ‘Back of the Bus’ Rosa Parks vibe, especially when councillors are making a point to have their vote recorded in opposition to both motions.
If there are worries that the request will set off a flurry of similar motions in the community asking to have certain flags recognized, why have councils already set the precedent with raising flags representing Japanese or coal miners? And so what if it does? Town council can easily set up a flag policy with certain parametres, such as short time frames, that celebrates its citizenry. Canada has long been known as a nation that embraces its diversity be it ethnic, religious or sexual orientation.
The Rainbow flag was flown in St. John’s, Newfoundland at city hall for the duration of the 2014 Winter Olympics, to protest anti-gay laws in Russia, in which several municipalities followed suit all across Canada, including Lethbridge. Police stations across Canada have flown the flag to show the gay community will be protected against hate crimes commonly associated against the group. In addition, rainbow flags have also been raised prominently on the grounds of the provincial legislatures of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Manitoba. Just down the road, Lethbridge College raised the pride flag for the first time in its 58-year history, last year. For the first time in military Canadian history, a rainbow flag was flown at CFB Edmonton in 2013. The Pride flag has been raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. All these political, military and other institutions who have raised the Pride flag front and centre with no problems, but yet some on council worry about the precedent it sets? Or are there other concerns brewing during an election year in a very conservative and religious area of Canada?
An alternative motion put forward by town administration had also suggested that, “consistent with the Town of Taber’s unwritten policy to not support external interest groups’ requests for designating particular themes, days or times, council denies the request from this particular interest group”. But once again, the town went against this ‘unwritten policy’ when some controversy arose back in August of 2015 when there were calls to have benches removed from the Taber cemetery that had ‘Taber Pro Life’ inscribed on them, which was defeated by a 5-2 vote.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason, which with this latest flag request it may have town council looking into going from unwritten to written rules as to what is allowed on town property.
When one claims we are all equal in this country, hence why we have no need for special flags, the words are sometimes spoken by people in a demographic that have not had to deal with the struggle to gain the equality one claims everyone has in the first place. You have educational assistants in Taber testifying that equality is anything but in the degrees of bullying borne simply from one’s sexual orientation. In my travels around Taber I have yet to hear someone say ‘that’s so f*&king straight’ in their equal use of derogatory insults.
We’ve had MPs (Larry Spencer) as recently as 2003 noting he would support initiatives outlawing homosexuality. Several prominent Canadian politicians have come out as gay over the years, yet conversion therapy is still a thing in Alberta to this day, as if it is some sort of mental illness despite tons of scientific papers stating the contrary. Techniques used in conversion therapy prior to 1981 in the United States and Western Europe included ice-pick lobotomies; chemical castration with hormonal treatment; aversive treatments, such as “the application of electric shock to the hands and/or genitals”; “nausea-inducing drugs … administered simultaneously with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli” — yeah, you read that correctly. Same-sex marriage being officially recognized in this province is barely a decade old.
A Canadian study estimated that the risk of suicide among LGBTQ youth is 14 times higher than for heterosexual youth. Adolescent youth who have been rejected by their families for being LGBTQ are over eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers — is this a sign of the proper support systems in place in how the rest of the world views people under the pride flag in its equality?
I don’t know what to think of newly-appointed Tory leader Jason Kenney’s comments about gay-straight alliances in schools of ‘I do, however, believe parents have a right to know what’s going on with their kids in the schools unless the parents are abusive. I don’t think it’s right to keep secrets from parents about challenges their kids are going through.’
If it’s a sign he wants parents as a loving and nurturing platform in their child’s discovery of their orientation, then good. If it is Kenney somehow implying being part of such an alliance is something shameful that parents need to address to change and is highly politicized, it is making a mountain out of a mole hill. How can any school with 100 per cent certainty, know that informing parents of a gay-straight alliance membership will not lead to abuse or further alienation?
If everyone is indeed equal as some say, why has Kenney not called for schools to inform parents of any other club their kids join? Is it a worry these alliances have some sort of sinister motive such as homosexual ‘brainwashing’, therapy groups or some sort of orgy is going to break out? A gay-straight alliance is just as much for straight classmates as it is for gay kids so that all can feel welcome and safe as youth learn about each other in increasing tolerance and building healthy, supportive relationships over things such as dances, bake sales or game nights. Should parents be worried after receiving a call from school that their heterosexual child is accepting of someone different from themselves?
Maybe this flag issue hits a little closer to home for me. In my own life. I’ve had people come out to me in college and later in life before they even came out to their parents. I heard their fears that perhaps friends and family would not love them anymore if they knew they were gay. I’ve seen the struggle the LGBTQ community has had in some small degree in which I consider myself an ally of sorts today. We, as heterosexuals, have never had it cross our mind that those that we love in our families and circle of friends may not love us anymore because of those we choose to love with our other halves in our private lives.
I’ve never seen the big deal. If you’re nice to me, show faithfulness, respect and love to your partner, are an ethical businessman/woman, and a contributing member of your community, what business is it of mine who your heart fancies?
And so for just even one day, councillors Laura Ross-Giroux and Rick Popadynetz showed they could stand behind a group still struggling for overall acceptance in this small rural town with a flag flying front and centre. Council showed (just barely with its 4-3 vote) that positive inroads have been made with at least some acceptance of the flag, and for that council should be celebrated. But consider this a baby step forward as opposed to the large stride that could have been.
All across Canada this Pride flag precedent has already been set in communities large and small… The question needs to be asked… Why are we so afraid to follow suit?