Nova Scotia

Despite calls for change, Municipality of Chester won't fly Pride flag

Across Nova Scotia, many towns and cities are celebrating Pride this month by raising the rainbow flag to show their solidarity with the LGBT community, but the Municipality of the District of Chester is not one of them.

Shelley McCorriston has spent the last year trying to change council's policy

Pride flags aren't allowed in the Municipality of the District of Chester, N.S., because of a 2007 policy that says only the flags of municipal, provincial, federal and national foreign governments or the United Nations can be flown on municipal poles. (CBC)

Across Nova Scotia, many towns and cities are celebrating Pride this month by raising the rainbow flag to show their solidarity with the LGBT community, but the Municipality of the District of Chester is not one of them.

That's because a 2007 policy states only the flags of municipal, provincial, federal and national foreign governments or the United Nations can be flown on municipal poles.

Shelley McCorriston, ​chair of Lunenburg County Pride, calls it an outdated policy, and she's spent the last year trying to get it changed.

"Raising a Pride flag is a very simple, yet powerful act that states very clearly that we believe in inclusion and that all are welcome here," she told CBC's Information Morning.

McCorriston wants Chester to join neighbouring communities like Mahone Bay, Bridgewater and Lunenburg that fly the Pride flag.

Shelley McCorriston, right, pictured with her wife, Sarah McCorriston, and their four-year-old son, Lincoln. (Submitted by Shelley McCorriston )

McCorriston lives with her wife and four children in the Municipality of Chester. Last July, she met with members of council to discuss reviewing their flag policy.

She said she felt some of the councillors were open to the change before the meeting, but she's since been met with "complete resistance."

"I don't want to sugarcoat it because I want people to know the resistance and the struggle that we've had with the council as it stands," said McCorriston.

After the meeting, McCorriston was told council would review the policy. But after she didn't hear back, she sent a number of emails to the municipality asking where they were in the process.

Warden Allen Webber said the municipality's flag policy is not discriminatory, but admitted that it has created controversy and divided the community.

He said council wants to avoid having to make a decision on what flag requests to approve, and which ones to deny.

The concern, Webber said, is if the municipality opens up the flag policy to allow for different types of flags, they may end up with flags the community finds offensive or discriminatory.

Flag policy 'doesn't allow' for discrimination, says warden

"If your flag policy is simple and straightforward, like ours, then you won't be discriminating against anybody because it doesn't allow for that," he said.

Since 2007, Webber said there's only been one other request to fly a flag on municipal poles, and that was from the Red Cross.

He said the municipality is "inclusive in everything we do."

"Council supports and recognizes the challenges faced by the LGBT community," he told CBC's Information Morning on Wednesday.

The decision has even drawn attention from actress Ellen Page, who is from Halifax.

"This is very unfortunate to say the least [Municipality of the District of Chester]," Page wrote on Twitter. "Dear friends in Nova Scotia, perhaps you want to call The Municipality of Chester to let them know how you feel?"

COVID-19 has also stalled much of the municipality's work, said Webber, adding the policy likely would have made its way to council by now if it hadn't been for the pandemic.

The issue is on council's agenda for Thursday.

"I still think that we need to be certain that by changing the policies that we're also not seen as being discriminatory," he said.

McCorriston said this is a collective fight with others who want to build an inclusive community, but for her, it's also personal.

"We are raising our four children to love without boundaries," she said. "And I want to raise them within a municipality that has the same values that we do."

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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