An official flag flying policy for Chatham-Kent’s municipal properties has been adopted by C-K council.

Brought forward by Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew, the motion allows Canada’s Maple Leaf, Ontario’s flag and the municipal flag to fly. Special interest flags to raise awareness and mark events such as Legion Week will be hoisted temporarily as approved. The decision as to which flags will fly will be made by C-K’s manager of corporate communications.

The motion passed 13-5, with councillors Rhonda Jubenville, Ryan Doyle, Amy Finn, Michael Bondy and Lauren Anderson casting no votes.

Jubenville and Bondy both said they disagreed with one person having the power to decide what flags can fly.

Bondy said he didn’t think giving the authority to the manager of corporate communications was wise, as it could be a different person in six months, stressing the decision should be made by council.

Jubenville echoed Bondy. She said that because she is “democratically principled” she has an issue with one person making decisions, but stressed it’s nothing personal against whoever the communications manager may be.

“For that reason, I can’t adopt this policy,” she added. “I like the idea of council making the decision on it. I don’t like the idea of one person making it, no matter who that one person is.”

However, Cathy Hoffman, C-K’s general manager of human resources and corporate services, said the decision-maker would have to follow the criteria laid out in the policy, and other top administrators would be consulted if there were questions.

According to the report, the policy states the municipality will not fly the flag of a group or organization whose undertakings or philosophy are contrary to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s policies or bylaws, including, but not limited to espousing hatred, violence, racism, or those that are politically or religiously motivated or deemed to be discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code. 

If a flag request is denied, Hoffman said the issue would come to council in an appeal process, which, according to the policy, would have the “full and final say.” Council will be made aware of all approvals and denials, the policy states. Flag requests must be made six weeks prior to the event.

Chatham-Kent’s controversial flag flap ignited last spring after the municipality turned down a request from Life in Motion, an arm of Right to Life Kent, to fly the organization’s flag. 

That led Jubenville to put forward a motion that only government flags be flown on municipal properties. But in circumstances similar to other Ontario municipalities, the issue devolved into a frenzied social media debate about the appropriateness of flying 2SLGBTQ+ Pride flags in the municipality.

Subsequently, a motion by Crew to develop a made-in-Chatham-Kent flag policy was approved, directing administration to return a report to council.

Traditionally, flying special interest flags is a long-time practice in Chatham-Kent. A total of 45 special interest flag requests were received by the municipality in 2023.

Crew said the new policy is “nice and clear” and provides a framework for decision making.

“Council’s job is to oversee and provide governance and not micro-manage and do all the tedious tasks,” Crew said. “Our job is to set direction and to make sure staff knows that direction.”

Wallaceburg Coun. Aaron Hall said flying community flags has been a “traditional way to celebrate” across Chatham-Kent.

“It isn’t a process that is broken,” Hall said in support of the new policy. “It allows council now, and in the future, to continue this tradition in our communities.”

An amendment to put up a new community flagpole for special interest flags was withdrawn by Crew. However, the motion also saw council approve a bridge lighting display policy, which will also commemorate various campaigns and causes.

By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 04, 2024 at 07:00

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