Raising the Pride flag unanimously rejected by Alberton council
'It's actually appalling'
Town council in Alberton, P.E.I., has unanimously rejected a request that it raise a Pride flag at the town hall to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Mayor David Gordon said there were complaints when the flag was raised last year, and it was taken down.
"That's the only reason why that decision was made [Monday night] and it was made by council and I'm just here to defend them.... And you know there is some issues here we're working on but there's no intent to this not flying the flag whatsoever none. And every councillor said the same thing at the meeting on Monday night," Gordon said.
"The town of Alberton has nothing against the gay pride people. That's not, no that's not the issue here."
Gordon said he and the town councillors suggested the flag be raised somewhere else in the town. He also said council is trying to avoid more requests to raise flags from other groups.
"These people are welcome in our community any time, and just by not flying their flag, I don't think we should be held accountable for not flying their flag," Gordon said. "I'm sorry if they feel that way."
I honestly thought like a town hall or like city hall or something like whoever is working there would be accepting the idea of trying to promote less hatred towards a specific type or group of people.— Kyle McCallum
Rory Starkman of the P.E.I. Transgender Network, one of the groups that asked for the flag raising, said the refusal shows LGBT groups have work to do.
"We're starting to see that we really need to move outward, especially for the youth in those communities who may be feeling really underserved and really underrepresented," said Starkman.
"I know that a flag raising seems really inconsequential, but sometimes it's that one little beacon of hope for someone."
Support in the cities
Starkman said the LGBT community has a higher rate of suicide, and a lack of community support can lead to higher risk factors, adding that the community has strong support in the province's two cities.
"It's actually appalling that they wouldn't do it," Starkman said.
"I can only imagine the people who live there who are seeing this flag go up feeling like, 'OK, I can finally be myself here,' only to see it brought down because of some bigots in the community or people who don't believe that LGBTQ people should exist. And that's really, really upsetting."
Kyle McCallum is gay and lives in Tignish, but works and spends a lot of his time in Alberton.
"I was actually kind of a bit shocked as well. People are kind of accepting here but it's hit or miss sometimes. Like you can either have someone who is like very against you or you have someone who is like very accepting and open," McCallum said.
"But for the most part I honestly thought like a town hall or like city hall or something like whoever is working there would be accepting the idea of trying to promote less hatred towards a specific type or group of people."
McCallum said having people in positions of authority support raising the flag is important.
"Let's say you're still not out, or still discovering yourself. It would be nice for people who have a voice like a mayor, or people on council to say 'it is okay, and it's not right for someone else to bully you or what not because you are homosexual, lesbian, transgendered,' however you may call yourself."
There will be a flag-raising ceremony at noon on Friday in Summerside and at 12:15 in Charlottetown.
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With files from Laura Chapin, Steve Bruce and Tom Steepe