The Pride flag is proudly flying once again in the Municipality of Neebing.

No more than two hours after Neebing Mayor Mark Thibert, Rainbow Collective of Thunder Bay president/co-founder Jason Veltri and Thunder Pride Association chair Scotia Kauppi raised the Pride flag in front of the Neebing municipal office on Friday, the flag was cut down and stolen.

Neebing Coun. Katherine Hill noticed the flag was missing around 7:30 p.m. on Friday with Thibert verifying the theft later that evening.

On Saturday, sometime in the afternoon, the flag “mysteriously” was put back up the flagpole less than 24 hours after it was carried away on the grounds of the municipal office.

“With all the online rhetoric that had gone on from a few sources, I was concerned that one of those individuals had stolen the flag,” said Thibert on Monday. “. . . . Even after (the flag) went back up, the same sources were still making very, very inappropriate comments online and demanding (the flag) being taken down and a lot of things that would regularly be classified as hate speech.”

Thibert blocked one particular person from the Neebing Forum on Facebook, but that person started putting derogatory comments on the Neebing municipality site and Facebook page.

Ominously, both Veltri and constituency assistant Dawson Mihichuk for the office of Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Lise Vaugeois, gave warnings in their speeches Friday that this type of hate crime could happen.

“As a small, rural municipality, you’re still struggling,” said Veltri on Friday as he turned to Thibert. “I’ve seen the comments. (Thibert and I) have shared them actually.

“. . . . My calls to action this month are going to be the same thing I’m going to say everywhere I go, ‘Stand with us. Call out hate and discrimination when you see it. Don’t let it permeate. Silence is complicitness.’ It’s up to you to go to your friends and families and neighbours to say, ‘No, no, no, we’re not going to tolerate this.’ Because when we let it seed, it grows. We need to stop it in its tracks now because there is a very scared and worried community that flies under this rainbow about their safety right now in today’s culture, in today’s society.”

Added Mihichuk on Friday, “(Thibert and council), I’m not exactly sure what sort of communications you’ve been getting, but I’m sure you’re been getting a little bit of negative communication saying ‘Why are you doing this?’ Don’t back down. Never back down.”

Thibert indicated that the municipal office may have security camera footage, as a device is pointed towards the parking lot where the temporary flagpole is located and will review it if it’s available.

The Neebing mayor said this may not have happened if they had received their new internal security/locking flagpole, which is currently on back order.

In the meantime, Thibert had a trail camera set up facing the flagpole as a short-term measure until the municipality receives their new flagpole.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 06, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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