City will fly Pride and trans flags, but won't host flag-raising ceremony

The city's LGBTQ advisory committee cited numerous reasons why it didn't want the city to fly the flags this year. But the mayor says it's important to other people, including the city's LGBTQ staff.

LGBTQ advisory committee said it didn't want the city to fly the flags this year

More than 300 people came to a ceremony at Hamilton city hall in 2016 to raise the LGBTQ pride and transgender pride flags. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton will fly Pride and transgender flags at city hall next month, but officials say they won't host a flag-raising ceremony.

The compromise is part of an effort aimed at "striking a balance" between respecting the wishes of the city's LGBTQ advisory committee and maintaining the relationship Hamilton continues to build with its "LGBTQ2SIA+ communities," Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a statement.

In a media release, the city said it'll raise the flag Friday, but it will not hold the usual celebration in the city hall forecourt.

The volunteer advisory committee sparked the flag-raising debate this month, calling for the city to not fly the flag. It did so saying the city "failed to materially demonstrate solidarity" with the community by employing Marc Lemire, the former head of white supremacy group the Heritage Front.

Lemire has worked in the city's IT department since 2005. He's on leave while city manager Janette Smith investigates the circumstances around his hiring and employment. There have been no public allegations that Lemire did anything wrong on the job, but Smith has hired two firms to look into it.

The committee is also protesting a recent police services board appointment, saying it was a missed opportunity to appoint someone from a marginalized community. It also says the city hasn't acted fast enough to implement its transgender and gender non-conforming protocol, and that it was arbitrary in who it selected to serve on the advisory committee.

Smith met with the group Tuesday. In past years, the committee organized the flag-raising event, which drew about 300 people. Committee chair Cameron Kroetsch said even if the group wanted to organize the one this year, it wouldn't have time. It only had its first meeting in April.

Kroetsch acknowledges that the group is only 10 people, and some LGBTQ residents might want a ceremony.

"I understand people are going to feel differently about it," he said. "It's a powerful symbol, and you can't perfectly represent everybody."

Instead, he said, the committee plans a "conversation" event June 18 at 7 p.m. in city hall council chambers.

Eisenberger said earlier this week that he wants to fly the flag. The LGBTQ community, he said, isn't just the advisory committee.

"There's a much broader audience out there," he said, "including our own staff."

He said in the Thursday statement that there "is much we still need to do.

"We recognize the important need to engage in meaningful dialogue to ensure all in the community feel truly respected."


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

With files from Dan Taekema