Regina raises rainbow flag, Saskatoon could do the same

The City of Regina will fly the rainbow flag during the Sochi Winter Olympic games and Saskatoon will be considering the same thing.
Regina City Hall had a rainbow flag flying in the afternoon. (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

The City of Regina will fly the rainbow flag during the Sochi Winter Olympic games and Saskatoon will be considering the same thing.

Several requests were made to raise the rainbow flag in in support of gay people in Russia. 

In that country, it's recently become illegal to publicly promote so-called "gay propaganda," a law that many human rights advocates around the world have condemned.

Jesse Ireland was one of the people to put in a request. He's happy Regina has raised the flag, but said many cities were raising flags on Friday, while Regina did not. 

"I was saddened, shocked, very disappointed that citizens have to request the city to show their support of human rights," said Ireland. 

Regina's Mayor Michaal Fougere said today was the earliest the flag could have been raised.

"If we had a flag we would have acted sooner, but we don't put flags out on the weekend, so our first opportunity is Monday morning," said Fougere. "What's key to remember here is that council absolutely supports this initiative...and absolutely wants the flag up and we have to receive the flag to put it up." 

The city is now flying Ireland's flag, who was happy to lend it, but thinks the city should get it's own rainbow flag. 

"Pride isn't going to be going away anytime soon as far as I'm aware, and so I'm sure if we have the flag raised every single year for Pride week, they may as well have their own," said Ireland. 

Saskatoon council to vote on pride flag tonight 

Tonight, Saskatoon city councillors will debate whether to hoist their own rainbow flag. 

"We work really hard to keep Saskatoon diverse," said Rachel Loewen Walker, the executive director of the Avenue Community Centre in Saskatoon. (CBC)
"This isn't as though there wasn't and isn't a thriving queer community in Russia," said Rachel Loewen Walker. She's the executive director of Saskatoon's Avenue Community Centre. "This is the case of a particular power taking, putting laws in place that weren't there previously."

Walker and other members of the centre will go before Saskatoon city council tonight, with a request to raise the rainbow flag. It would fly alongside the Canadian, Saskatchewan and city flags at city hall.

A growing number of Canadian cities are choosing to fly the symbolic flag during the Sochi Games, to show their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

"It's important to show our solidarity with cities across Canada," said Walker. "It's also important to show our support of those athletes that are at the Olympics or that didn't go this time. And to speak out against the laws that have been put into effect."

Each year, the City of Saskatoon flies the rainbow flag in June, during local Pride Festival events. A number of city councillors attend the annual Pride Parade. To date, however, no mayor has ever taken part.

"Many people are really looking forward to that flag being raised," said Walker.

City officials say the request must be approved by a majority of city councillors. Members of the Avenue Community Centre would then have to book Saskatoon's civic square, to hold a ceremonial flag-raising.

The rainbow flag is already on display at Saskatchewan's legislature in Regina, having been raised on Saturday.