Saskatoon

'What side of history do you want to be on?': Pride flag controversy headed to La Ronge council

Saskatoon drag queen Cheryl Trade will travel to La Ronge Wednesday to lend her voice to her hometown's queer community at town council. Councillor Jordan McPhail is expected to bring forward a motion for the town to fly the rainbow Pride flag. A similar motion was voted down in 2017.

La Ronge community members host a Pride parade every year, but town hall isn't flying the flag

La Ronge's very first Pride parade took place in 2017 (Supplied by April Chiefcalf)

The first ever Pride parade in La Ronge, held in 2017, was a success. The only thing missing was a rainbow flag at town hall.

Saskatoon drag performer Jordan McKay, whose stage name is Cheryl Trade, happened to be home in La Ronge for the summer of 2017.

"I just happened to have all my drag with me," he said. "I didn't even know what a drag queen was until I was 21 so to be in drag at 26 walking through La Ronge was pretty crazy."

Now McKay is headed north to attend a town council meeting Wednesday in support of his community.

Councillor Jordan McPhail is expected to bring forward a motion to fly the Pride flag outside town hall.

A similar motion was defeated in 2017, the year of that first pride parade, which McPhail organized.

Many communities in the country fly the rainbow flag symbolizing LGBTQ2S pride throughout the month of June.

La Ronge did fly the flag once, for one day in 2014.

'It makes no sense not to be inclusive'

Cheryl Trade is the host of Disco Diva's and is Miss Gay Saskatoon for 2019. She's headed to La Ronge Wednesday to support her hometown in flying the Pride flag. (Facebook/Cheryl Trade)

Jordan McPhail is serving his first term on the La Ronge town council. This will be his second time bringing up the flag issue in support of the queer communities in the North.

"I know that one of their requests is to fly the flag and I have no problem making that motion," he said.

McPhail was perplexed when his motion was voted down two years ago.

So was Jordan McKay. He has urged council via social media to consider, "what side of history do you want to be on?"

"It's been 50 years since the Stonewall riots," said McKay, referring to the uprising of queer people in New York City, seen by many as the birthplace of the modern Pride movement.

"It makes no sense to me now to not be inclusive or not to show your support for the community, whether town council likes it or not — whether everyone likes it or not."

'The truth is I don't really know what's happening'

Ron Woytowich, the mayor of La Ronge, seems somewhat conflicted in his support of the flag.

"The truth is I don't really know what's happening. I do know that they have a parade every year and I participated last year and i fully expect to this year," he said when asked about the town's participation in Pride events.

Woytowich suffered a stroke recently and says he has severe memory issues.

He said he does not remember his vote, but the record states he was in support of the flag motion in 2017, the year it was voted down.

La Ronge mayor Ron Woytowich participated in the 2018 Pride parade and plans to do so again this year. (Supplied by April Chiefcalf)

"If you're asking me what my opinion is on it, it doesn't matter. I really don't care whether it's up or down," he said.

There are two flagpoles outside town hall, one for the provincial flag and one for the Canadian flag.

Another flagpole stands closer to the library.

"I thought it was the library that decided on that pole because it's right outside the library," said Woytowich.

Now that he has confirmed it's a town-owned pole, he says he would be open to flying the Pride flag there, but not at town hall.

Woytowich is also involved with the local Friendship Centre, which he says plays a part in welcoming people with diverse identities to La Ronge.

"I don't want to blow our own horn here but at the Friendship Centre here we've made it as inviting as we could and we've invited them," he said.

Woytowich added that he has had several gay friends over the years, though he is unaware of any LGBTQ2S organizations in the area.

The 2017 La Ronge Pride Parade saw support from beyond the LGBTQ2S community, but no Pride flag flew at town hall. (Supplied by April Chiefcalf)

Both Woytowich and McPhail said they feel positive about the future of queer acceptance in the North.

Jordan McKay is hopeful, but as yet unconvinced.

"You have small towns everywhere raising the flag. And I don't want to look back when I'm an old man and think oh well my hometown didn't really step up," he said.

Regardless, he'll be in La Ronge Wednesday evening as Cheryl Trade, the seven-foot drag queen with a booming voice and something to say.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Mayor Ron Woytowich does not remember voting the 2017 flag motion down. In fact, while he does not remember the vote, the record shows he voted in favour of the flag.
    Jun 11, 2019 9:44 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bridget Yard is the producer of CBC's Up North. She previously worked for CBC in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan as a video journalist and later transitioned to feature storytelling and radio documentaries.

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