David Alward won't let school fly pride flag, student says
Online petition calls for the New Brunswick government to allow schools to fly the rainbow flag
A student at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton says Premier David Alward is not allowing the school to fly the pride flag during Pride Week and she is petitioning the New Brunswick government to change its flag policy.
"However, this year, only a few days before the planned raising of the flag, we received an email from the premier, David Alward, stating that we are not allowed to raise the pride flag due to a law that says no non-official flags can be flown on public property," wrote Tianna Whelan in her online petition at change.org.
"Flying the pride flag shows students, and the public, that the school is a safe and accepting place for everyone."
The petition had been signed by about 100 people by Friday morning. By Friday night, the number topped 350.
Alward responded on Friday. He said all groups and organizations are treated in a similar way.
"The question that’s raised about the flag is one of protocol and it's not a question of one specific flag or another," he said. "I encourage fully every opportunity to support and celebrate diversity within our school system."
The petition asks the New Brunswick government "to allow schools to raise the pride flag because the safety and acceptance of children should be placed at a higher importance than a law that was forgotten about for two years."
"We can debate whether we should be flying all flags that are in existence or not and that is work that people within government departments can certainly have a look at," said Alward.
Alward told reporters the policy applies to all government buildings and the established protocol is being followed.
In an earlier email, Alward referred to the rainbow flag as a "banner."
The students and school can display the pride flag within the school, Alward said.
The school was never given permission by the protocol office to fly the pride flag in previous years, according to an official in Alward's office.
On Friday, the N.B. New Democrats released a pledge to end the ban on pride flags at schools.
“You can’t say you support inclusion and diversity and then refuse a group from flying the very symbol that represents that diversity,” said Kelly Lamrock, a NDP candidate in the upcoming provincial election. "Young people who want to take a stand against bullying and for inclusion should be given support, not arbitrary rules."
Lamrock used Twitter on Friday to criticize Alward's decision on the flag policy.
"And while we're at it, does anyone think the biggest problem in education demanding the Premier's intervention was LHHS flying a Pride flag?"
The gay pride flag was raised at the New Brunswick legislature to support gay athletes during the Sochi Olympics. However, it took until the sixth day of the Olympics for the flag to be raised.
"Government does not move at the fastest pace, that's for sure," said Craig Leonard, a cabinet minister, at the time.
"But I think what's important is that the flag is flying today in solidarity with the LGBT community, and certainly we as a government want to make sure that message is sent loud and clear that we appreciate the LGBT community in this province."
Friday marks the end of Pride Week at Leo Hayes.
The pride flag is flying at City Hall in Fredericton.