A request to fly the Pride flag in Powassan is being met with opposition from some community members.

Marty Schreiter, the Program Coordinator of the Powassan and District Union Public Library, asked the council to fly the Pride flag during June which is recognized as Pride month.

In the past, the municipality has passed resolutions recognizing June as Pride month but it’s the first time it’s been asked to fly the Pride flag.

“I have no problem flying the Pride flag,” said Powassan Mayor Peter McIsaac.

McIsaac told Schreiter Powassan wants to be an inclusive community but also said the Pride flag would share the municipal flag pole at 250 Clark with the Indigenous flag since June is also National Indigenous History Month in Canada.

Following his statement, the council unanimously passed the Pride flag resolution.

However, passing the resolution set the stage later in the meeting for members in the council chambers to voice their opposition. Before the end of each council session, if there are residents in the chambers it’s customary for McIsaac to ask if they have questions regarding that night’s meeting. When McIsaac asked his question this time, he and the council were met with about half a dozen people objecting to the Pride flag resolution.

One woman said while she appreciates the Mayor’s effort to be inclusive, she believed the town council was opening itself up to trouble by favouring special interest groups. The resident said this could lead to a continuous series of events where other interest groups come before council asking that their flag also be flown.

Moments later another woman in the audience told council she is part of the North Bay Right to Life board and said she would be back in the future with her own resolution asking that a Right to Life flag be flown at 250 Clark which serves as the town hall building.

Another woman with the board of the North Bay Pregnancy Help and Resource Centre said she would like her organization’s flag to be flown. This woman then suggested Powassan adopt a no-flag policy because there would be hundreds of interest groups asking that their respective flags be flown.

A man in the chambers said municipalities should stick to municipal affairs and remain neutral on the issue of displaying the flags of interest groups.

In defending the resolution, McIsaac said “we’re not going to be the first community that’s going to do this”.

McIsaac said Powassan is an inclusive community and the council needs to show its residents that marginalized people are welcome and respected in town. He added flying the Pride flag was a small gesture in accomplishing that.

Councillor Randy Hall said if the municipality adopted a no-flag policy the wording would have “to be very, very clear and concise”.

Hall said he didn’t know if this was the right course of action to pursue but if there was to be a no-flag policy the municipality may have to get legal advice before moving forward on the matter. Hall suggested perhaps a way that would appease everyone was to erect a second flag pole at 250 Clark.

This way the primary flag pole would be dedicated to the Canadian and Ontario flags while the second flag pole would be used by special interest groups to fly their respective flags.

A woman in the chambers said this approach would be divisive because there are hundreds of interest groups and asked how the council would decide who gets to fly each group’s flags.

Hall recognized this may be an issue and said the municipality may have to develop a policy to address this. The debate for pursuing a second flag pole was left for another time.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative

Original Published on Jun 01, 2023 at 07:24

This item reprinted with permission from   North Bay Nugget   North Bay, Ontario
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