By J.W. Schnarr
Southern Alberta Newspapers – Lethbridge
The Town of Taber council faced a backlash last week after voting to deny a request from a Taber LGBTQ advocacy group to fly a Pride flag on a public flag pole as part of 2018 Pride Week celebrations.
On Jan. 22, council voted 5-1 to deny the request from the Taber Equality Alliance to fly a Pride Flag on the Community Flag Pole located in Confederation Park in June.
Council then went a step further and passed a motion for administration to remove the “Community Flag Pole” designation, effectively removing the ability for any groups to fly any flags from the pole. Instead, only municipal, provincial or federal flags, or those of visiting dignitaries will be allowed from town-owned flag poles.
Jayce Wilson, a member of TEA, said she was not surprised by the town’s decision.
“I wondered if this was going to be a situation we were going to be in when this council was elected,” she said. “But we’re going to push forward as best we can and try to work through the situation.”
Last Wednesday, TEA sent out a response to the decision.
“We were granted permission to fly the Pride Flag for the month of June 2017, it was not without incident, but we persevered and it proudly flew until month’s end,” the release states.
“Though we are saddened by this decision, we shall stay strong and resilient in the face of adversity and remember what it is we are trying to achieve. Every day we stand tall to show others the discrimination that still exists in our community; we stand against hate and ignorance in all its forms.”
According to a statement issued by the Town of Taber, the decisions were based on “the desired wishes of council to have all citizens represented by the Canadian, Albertan or Town of Taber flags on any town-owned flagpoles.”
The town has stated, however, that the motions will not prevent flags from being flown in Confederation Park, and groups can fly them on temporary flagpoles or by other means during their event “when they have rented the Cornfest stage and/or the Gazebo.”
“The Town of Taber encourages any group to fly their respective flags in whatever way they see fit during their events, as long as it is done with respect for town property,” Mayor Andrew Prokop is quoted in the statement. “We look forward to the Taber Pride celebration occurring in June, and wish the Taber Equality Alliance every success for their event.”
TEA’s inaugural celebrations were marred by hate in June 2017 with the theft and defacement of the group’s original flag, followed days later by the burning of a second flag.
Wilson said these events highlight the importance of having the flag fly in a public space.
“A perfect example of why it’s so important is what happened last year, with it being stolen and burned,” Wilson said. “Even comments people heard in public that they were pleased to see that happen to the flag. We need to raise awareness. People need to know that we’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We’re part of this community.”
“It also starts a dialogue and gets people talking. It raises awareness when people see it.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen sent out a tweet that stated:
“Dear Taber, Your 1st flag was stolen, 2nd burned. It would be an honour to fly your next Pride flag from the Taber (provincial) building.”
Earlier in the day, Kristopher Wells, a University of Alberta professor and faculty director for the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the U of A, also took to Twitter regarding the issue:
“On a day all about Mental Health, the town of Taber has refused to fly the Pride Flag. This lets hate win out over love. Discrimination cannot win.”
The Taber Equality Alliance Society formed in 2014 from a need to increase safety and support the LGBTQ community, with a goal to create a safe space in the community for sexual and gender minorities and their allies.
The alliance is focused on fostering a more welcoming and inclusive community through engagement, partnerships, social groups and advocacy.
Wilson asked supporters to write letters or send emails to TEA about why Pride is important.
It is hoped enough letters can be collected to encourage Taber council to reconsider their decision.
Letters can be mailed to:
Taber Equality Alliance Society; 5204 54 Street; Taber, AB T1G 1M5. Or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org