Thunder Bay not flying Pride flag during Sochi 2014

Thunder Bay will not fly the Pride flag at City Hall during the rest of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Whitehorse City Hall raised a gay pride flag against homophobia and to stand against the discrimination against gays at the Sochi Olympics in Russia. Thunder Bay has opted out of making what it calls a political statement in raising the flag. (Mktp/Flickr)

Thunder Bay will not fly the Pride flag at City Hall during the rest of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Officials denied a request from Thunder Pride on Thursday. City clerk John Hannam said Thunder Bay uses flags to mark special events and occasions — including Pride Week — but it doesn’t fly them for political protests.

"[I’m] not at all suggesting it's not a worthy issue to protest against, but … there's any number of other issues that may come up and people may wish us to fly one flag or the other,” he said.

Flags are flown by the city to mark special occasions and historical events,” Hannam said.

“We've never used them as a political protest. To get into that practice, I think, is not something we want to be entertaining."

Hannam said the issue in Russia is a matter for international diplomacy, and falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Thunder Pride spokesperson Todd Miller said there are no hard feelings. 

"Thunder Bay has a policy of not getting embroiled in things of what they consider a political nature and, honestly, we respect that decision,” Miller said.

Sudbury decides to fly rainbow flag

The city has always shown support for Thunder Pride's activities, and proudly flies the rainbow flag before and during Pride Week, Miller added. He said the choice not to fly it now doesn't diminish that support.

Elsewhere in northern Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie has also decided not to fly the Pride flag as a political statement. Sudbury takes a different view, however.

Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk said the notion that raising the flag violates the city's neutrality never came up in the discussions.

"Well, it was important for me and council to be partners with the rest of the cities that are raising the flag, [and] to say that discrimination is not in our city,” she said.

Cities flying a pride flag include Sudbury, Iqaluit, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Charlottetown, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, St. John's, and Toronto. Cities not flying a pride flag include Sault Ste. Marie and Kitchener

Miller said the important thing is that the Sochi 2014 Olympics has people talking about gay and lesbian rights in Russia.

"I'm so proud of our athletes in Sochi ... I certainly wish things were different for people living in Russia itself,” he said.

“I think if the Olympics [weren't] happening in Russia that there would have been a lot less emphasis on the plight of gays and lesbians in Russia right now."


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