REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
The David Alward government in New Brunswick has given notice to the province’s schools that it is not lawful to raise the Pride Flag on government property. The premier has made it clear that if the flag is to be raised then do it inside the buildings.
This is the latest in a series of the country’s Conservative governments’ attempts to minimize the celebrations that indicate the advances the LGBT citizens have been able to garner thus far in Canada. Alberta recently decided to not allow Gay/Straight Alliance groups in schools.
Alward has made an issue that was raised just prior to Pride Week celebrations that begin this month throughout Canada and the around the Globe. Asked if he would change the law he answered that he has no intention to make any adjustment. In protest, Mayor Brad Woodside has made it known that the flag will be raised in Fredericton, regardless. This from a man who some years ago was adamant that Pride Flags were to be barred and no parade was allowed because it was against his religious beliefs.
We recognize a complete turn-around from this mayor in Fredericton. The premier refuses to budge and now has the LGBT folks in New Brunswick seeing red.
Readers may recall an earlier situation in Manitoba when authorities of a Christian High School laid down the law and refused to allow Gay/Straight Alliances to be formed. This was totally supported by then Conservative Federal Justice Minister Vic Toews. It caused much concern as it demonstrates that blatant discrimination and homophobia has not yet been defeated.
This raises the question that if the black community wishes to raise a flag honouring their existence in this country, or perhaps the aboriginal people of Canada felt their symbol should be displayed on government property and were refused, how would that be received by Premier Alward? There would be an outcry and rightfully so.
Alward has stated that the decision not to revisit this outrageous decision has no bearing on celebrating Pride. This is an election year and this decision by the premier to do absolutely nothing will reflect the vote and this government may experience a serious set-back. Why? The LGBT population, families, friends and allies number in the thousands in New Brunswick. The provincial policy is outdated and decidedly discriminatory because government property belongs to all citizens and must not be allowed to randomly decide which flag is appropriate to fly because of an antiquated law. Perhaps he will have a change of heart! Comments/information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.