Motion to limit flags flutters in defeat

A Chatham-Kent councillor’s attempt to ban flying any flags on municipal property other than those representing the federal, provincial and municipal government has failed.

Instead, Chatham-Kent will explore the development of its own flag-raising policy, with a report on the matter expected to come back to council in September.

Controversary surrounding the flag-raising issue has swirled in recent weeks following a motion brought forward by North Kent Coun. Rhonda Jubenville.

Jubenville’s original motion asked that only government flags be flown in the wake of the denial of a request from Life in Motion – the educational arm of Right to Life Kent – was overlooked.

She said the organization had been “discriminated against,” and she wanted to prevent that from happening to other groups by flying government flags only.

However, it failed in a 12 to 5 vote. Council subsequently approved a motion from Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew directing administration to probe the issue and develop a flag policy.

Discussion at the council meeting ranged far and wide, swinging from Gay Pride to the rights of the unborn, the “good deeds” of Right to Life, a seven year old’s plea for inclusivity, several amendments and the need of respect for all.

Jubenville told council she has been subjected to a spate of hateful messages since bringing the flag issue forward, including two wishes for her death and someone casting a witches’ spell upon her. 

“I am perplexed by those who advocate for their own flag and inclusion do so with little regard for other groups,” Jubenville said. 

“I have been called words that I had to look up the meaning of,” Jubenville added, noting the attacks came at her all because of her wish to fly only three flags at municipal centres.

She said the hateful messages “sadly” come from groups who preach inclusivity and from some who were present in council chambers.

“Why would I now, as a councillor, feel compelled to support these groups who wished me death and hate over a flag?” Jubenville asked. “This should concern all of council.”

But she said that while she had received “disheartening” messages, she had also received a “plethora of support” from thousands across C-K.

“To my fellow councillors, I hope you realize there are more constituents in favour of this motion than against it,” Jubenville claimed.

For the public record, Jubenville said she wanted to stress she was not “anti-Black.

“I am not racist and I am not anti LGTBQ+,” she said. “I know and love many people in all of these communities.”

She said the flag decision shouldn’t be decided by administration or arbitrarily by the mayor’s office.

Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy tried to bring forward a friendly amendment that would allow “exceptions” to the motion such as Veteran’s events and Terry Fox, noting it should be a “council decision if exceptions are made.

“It puts the decision back into the hands of council, where it should be,” Bondy said.

However, the discussion got bogged down around the table with administration finally interjecting that council needed to stick with the original wording of the motion.

Crew began her comments with an apology to Jubenville.

“I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through because that’s unacceptable and unforgiveable in this community,” Crew said.

However, Crew said she wouldn’t be supporting the motion and read out a message from a Grade 1 student who said that flying different flags shows “love and respect” for the community.

Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor agreed it’s unacceptable for anyone to be on the receiving end of any messages of hate, which he said were aimed at people on both sides of the flag discussion.

McGregor stressed that inclusivity is paramount, particularly for groups who do not feel seen or accepted.

He said he was proud of the way many groups had handled the issue.

“I want you to know you belong here,” McGregor said.

Mayor Darrin Canniff made the unusual step of interjecting into the discussion.

He stressed that a policy needed to be developed by administration before it could be fully debated by council.

Crew’s motion passed 14 to 3, with Jubenville, Bondy and South Kent Coun. Ryan Doyle as the only dissenters.

By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2023 at 16:02

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chatham Voice   Chatham, Ontario
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