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COLUMN: Only government flags to fly in Stellarton

Last month the Town of Stellarton in Nova Scotia voted to only fly government flags.

This decision is loud, clear and decidedly discriminatory. The mayor, Danny MacGillivray, does not agree with the ruling.

Over the years, many jurisdictions decided against raising the Pride flag, such as Cumberland County, Pictou County and many others. In 2017, humankind remains unkind, thoughtless and not in favour of recognizing the diverse nature of our populations.

We hear about the divisions, the wars, the endless fighting between world leaders and in the process many are left behind. I would ask Stellarton town council how they justify this deplorable decision. Countless flags exist that signify the importance of a certain segment of our society and to deny them the opportunity to proudly display their symbol of pride is not only divisive, but indeed cruel.

The Mi’kmaq flag, the LGBTQ pride flag, or any flag that symbolizes the importance of being part of a society that has long been in denial of equality must change. Many cities and towns across this nation hoist flags that signify the various historical and existing diverse nature of our Canadian society. Not to allow a flag to be raised other than government flags is totally out of line and purely divisive.

Stellarton’s neighbour, New Glasgow, allows flags to fly and a great example is the yearly Pride flag-raising ceremony. The support is out there and I suggest Stellarton council revisit this abhorrent ruling.

The NSCC, Stellarton campus, hoists the pride flag each year and strongly indicates support exists. To be fair, Cumberland County council also ruled that only government flags are allowed to fly. This does strongly indicate that discrimination is alive and well.

The Pride flag is raised in many jurisdictions around Canada, as it should be. The argument that only three flagpoles are allowed simply does not carry weight. One solution is to add a fourth pole to accommodate other flags.

Perhaps these councils will hear the wake-up call and rethink their decisions. No matter the cause, no matter the reason, flags must be allowed to fly on city and town properties. In Truro, similar to some other places across the country, homophobic Mayor Bill Mills caused quite a stir by refusing to fly the Pride flag. Last year the flag was raised for the first time. Would he have refused the flag representing one of the Indigenous nations? Imagine the outcry, and rightfully so.

Above all, our governments, federal, provincial or civic must recognize the equality we all deserve regardless of the colour of our skin, background, sexual orientation, gender equality, gender identity and expression and religious beliefs. Respect for each other must be of prime concern and our governments must take initiative to make the changes, remove stigmas and promote the fact that all are entitled to equal treatment.

In the case of Stellarton it is obvious change is not forthcoming, but appears stagnant. This is just another indication that discrimination is alive and well, at least in some of our areas. Excuses are not valid and must be replaced by speaking out in unison, a cry for change and goals that are positive and inclusive. As a matter of interest, Stellarton does not have its own flag!

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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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