As Pride goes online, Hamilton quietly raises the rainbow and transgender pride flags

Hamilton's mayor quietly raised the rainbow and transgender pride flags at city hall today to commemorate a Pride month more understated than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flag raising comes as the city awaits a report from an independent investigator about last year's festival

The city will fly the rainbow flag, and the transgender pride flag, for the month of June. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton's mayor quietly raised the rainbow and transgender pride flags at city hall Monday to commemorate a Pride month more understated than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The raising also comes as the city awaits a report from report from an independent investigator about violence at last year's Pride festival.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a statement that the flags will fly for the month of June, but the flag-raising ceremony is cancelled because of COVID-19. 

"We encourage all citizens to support and celebrate the gifts 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and the community bring to our city, by engaging in the virtual programs available," the city said in a media release. 

"We know there is still much we need to do to ensure equity and inclusion for the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in our city," Eisenberger said in a statement. "Now more than ever, we need to continue meaningful dialogue to ensure all people in the queer and trans communities in Hamilton feel respected, supported, celebrated and safe."

The issue of the flag raising has been far quieter than last year, when the city's LGBTQ advisory committee asked the city not to fly the flags at all. The group listed, among other issues, the (now former) employment of someone with ties to a white supremacist group. The mayor's office opted to fly the flags but not hold a flag-raising ceremony.

Toronto lawyer Scott Bergman is doing the independent investigation of Hamilton Police Service on the day of the 2019 Pride festival. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Tension grew further after demonstrators carrying signs admonishing homosexuality, some wearing yellow vests, showed up in Gage Park during the June 15 Pride festival and clashed with festival attendees. Violence broke out and several people were injured. Scott Bergman, a Toronto lawyer, is doing an independent investigation into police conduct that day. The report was originally due in April, but has been delayed until at least this month.

Eisenberger, meanwhile, appointed two members of the LGBTQ community to be his special advisors. One of those people, Deirdre Pike, is still acting in that role, his office says.

Now COVID-19 has driven all of the area's Pride events online. Pride Hamilton is holding a virtual celebration June 14 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Cameron Kroetsch, a Pride Hamilton board member, says having to keep it virtual stings a little.

The importance of taking up space

"It's not a great feeling to not be able to meet people in person," he said. "A lot of what Pride is about is being able to see your friends, hang out with people in the community, give each other hugs."

It's important, he said, to "take up space, especially with what happened last year."

The LGBTQ advisory committee hasn't met lately because of the pandemic, he said, and neither the committee nor Pride Hamilton have heard from the city about the flag raising. 

The virtual Pride festival, he said, will be three hours of family-friendly entertainment, including musicians, speakers and a drag queen story time.

Pride Niagara posted videos of various flag raising events on its Facebook page Monday.

Brant County is streaming its Pride flag raising June 8 at 11 a.m. and hosting a "virtual Pride resource" on its website. The library system will also highlight queer and trans-themed e-books, movies and online collections throughout the month.


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca