The president of an Ontario pride committee has filed a human rights complaint after the Township of Norwich banned Pride flags from municipal properties.
The town council in Southern Ontario voted 3-2 in favour of banning all non-civic flags from municipal properties Tuesday night. Councillor John Scholten proposed the bylaw, arguing that civic flags best represent all members of the community, and allow everyone to “coexist in peace and harmony,” reports Global News.
“I simply need to look at our federal, provincial and municipal flags to see everything we need to maintain the unity that is already there,” said Scholten.
“By flying these flags alone on township property, we can coexist in peace and harmony no matter who we are or what we believe. To open the door to flying flags that represent any particular group or organization or ideology will only divide rather than unite."
Councillor Alisha Stubbs opposed the ban, stating “It’s no longer about inclusion. It’s directly, specifically, and horrifyingly discrimination. It’s a clear violation of the Human Rights Code.”
“This entire situation is sneaky,” continued Stubbs. “It’s demeaning. It’s nontransparent. It’s unethical, and further goes far beyond our Code of Conduct as councillors.”
Stubbs proposed a motion to make June Pride month in the municipality, but that too was voted down by the council.
Tami Murray, president of the Oxford County Pride committee, told Global News that the decision perpetuates “homophobia, discrimination and oppression,” and that she was left with no choice but to file a human rights complaint.
“I think our safety is at risk in Norwich, Ont., and I think that was demonstrated last evening, not just by banning pride flags, but they also did not endorse the Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee, and they also refused to proclaim Pride Month,” said Murray.
“All of the above is very concerning in terms of their understanding of oppression and marginalization. We have a community now endorsing and perpetuating homophobia, discrimination and oppression.”
In a long statement on Facebook, Murray said that the “rationale for banning these flags is discriminatory, it's homophobic, transphobic and biphobic.”
“Please know the Oxford County Pride committee will not tolerate this type of hurtful and harmful behaviour. We are mobilizing and have filed an Ontario Human Rights complaint,” Murray added. “Refusal to fly pride banners and proclaim pride month are infractions and must be investigated moving forward.”
According to Global News, there have been several incidents involving the theft or vandalism of Pride flags in the township recently.
On Thursday, Ontario MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam brought up the decision in Norwich as a way to urge the Ontario Legislature to move forward on Bill 94, the “Keeping 2SLGBTQI+ Communities Safe Act.”
Bill 94, proposed by Wong-Tam, seeks to create designated “2SLGBTQI+ community safety zones,” around events such as drag queen story time which would prohibit making “offensive remarks, either verbally or in writing, with respect to matters of social orientation or gender roles” or “engaging in a protest or demonstration for the purpose of furthering the objectives of homophobia and transphobia.”
Wong-Tam also proposed Bill 42, the Gender Affirming Healthcare Advisory Committee Act, that aims to expand coverage for sex change procedures and proposes to implement an “informed consent model of care” in the province, which is a model that excludes the involvement of mental health professionals in the sex change process. Proponents of this model of care believe psychotherapy is a form of transphobic gatekeeping.
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