Guest Post: The Future Lives Here??? by Martin Rooney


Martin Rooney and Jen Marchbank

Martin Rooney and Jen Marchbank

CREDIBILTY? PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURETO PRIDE FLAG, OR NOT TO PRIDE FLAG 

This could be an expose of many other underlying issues affecting our municipality. An historic first for North America with Toronto having just hosted the first ever WorldPride in North America. The scenes of Canada’s largest city embracing millions of people proud of who they are, was amazing. The economic impact of the willingness to fly the Pride flag on municipal flag poles has served many many Canadian cities well. From Halifax to Victoria the Pride Flag flies on municipal buildings for at least one day during the pride season. Some tend to embrace the GLBT community even further by flying the flag for the whole week surrounding their Prides.

Some, such as Vancouver go so far as to painting crosswalks in the rainbow colors in the “village” – the West End, evening installing rainbow banners to adorn light posts. Just think of the positive economic impact to Surrey if city hall was to fully embrace Pride. Who knows even one day we might seek to hold the World Gay Games, world pride (which has a human rights convention attached to the celebration) or an international GLBT conference. Vancouver had Pride House (the first) during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games – Surrey flew the Olympic flag on municipal poles as a cultural co host city. We hold the annual Pride Festival in Holland Park – the Olympic Park -. What powerful a message the Pride Flag being raised in Surrey July 6th could say (even for a few hours) – the city that claims “the future lives here” and claims to be the beacon of diversity as a
city, has unfortunately a long way to go……….

Refer to the GLBT Alliance delegation to city hall June 9th of this year, (this after a refusal to acknowledge that an official request was made to fly the flag in February – during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in support of the GLBT athletes competing there under the anti gay laws enacted by the Putin Government just prior to those games). In that meeting we were instantly granted one of our three requests, thank you council, an Exhibit of GLBT History of Surrey that includes a Pride Flag in the atrium of the new city hall. At the same meeting councillor Rasode asked the clerk to come bac with a report explaining how other local municipalities were in fact able to fly the flag.

This gave us hope that Surrey City Council would in fact research and come back with a positive report. The request to fly the flag in Surrey then, was in response to some 43 other Canadian Municipalities already flying the Pride Flag, including the Provincial and Federal Government, and even our sister city of New Westminster.

Move to June 23rd and the response of Surrey City Hall. Epic fail to deliver by Surrey First Mayoral Candidate Linda Hepner. First it was Mayor Dianne Watts who had ownership of the issue (February 2014). Madam Mayor, it is 2014 and I for one ensured that you and all members of the council received an email that included a very specific request – to join the other cities across Canada in supporting the GLBT Athletes in Sochi, following Putin’s installation of the some of the world’s recent most aggressive anti GLBT laws.

The agenda for the June 23rd meeting was released and we discover that the flag policy would be under the Corporate Report – a report that does not allow for any public discussion. Also the corporate report gave the impression that a brand new (they warbled about the fact that there ever was official flag policy) flag policy was proposed and adopted that would only allow the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Flags to fly on ALL municipal flag poles. (in 2010 the Olympic Flag flew under the municipal flag -so a no cost solution????).

city hallThere was no report provided in response to Councillor Rasode’s request

Rather a “new” flag protocol pushed throughcouncil. There apparently will be no further discussion on that issue until perhaps
we have a new Mayor and Council elected in November 2014.

//

The issue of credibility lies in the explanation that Ms Hepner delivered. Mayor Watts (acting like the lame duck Mayor she is) excused herself from both council meetings that engaged in this dialogue. It was how Ms Hepner related the decision of the council and then the “offer” to allow effectively any size banner or flag, “that could be as high as the birds flying from the ceiling of the Atrium” that calls her credibility into question.

After the exhibit was built, with the awesome assistance of city staff, and the Pride Flag standing on the flag pole at its side, Surrey Pride representatives arrived with a 20′ x 40′ Rainbow Flag to the consternation of staff at city hall. Ms Hepner was unavailable to assist staff and confirm or deny that she had given the direction that this was all ok. The staff, one of whom was at the (council) meeting, refused to listen to, and/or watch the video clip. If the offer was not a bona fide offer, then fine, but to be unable for comment on a Thursday afternoon to take responsibility for ones words and promises. At the time of writing this there has been no written response from Ms. Hepner, herstaff or city hall as to the legitimate reason that the 20′ x 40′ piece of coloured fabric cannot be hung inside the atrium.

Mayor Watts, remember who is a lame duck Mayor, took to the airways promoting a community flag pole…..awesome. At a cost of $200,000…..Expensive for a flag pole? Why not have been proactive and install the 4th flagpole while building the new city hall? This was not the first time that the Pride flag had been a discussion with Dianne Watts…..The kicker – the community has to raise the $200,000. (The next question is – what policy determines who gets to use that pole and what causes or celebrations will be endorsed usages of the pole?)

The taxpayers (who include the GLBT community) of this city have paid more than their fair share. The diversity that this administration has espoused throughout this term needs to be defined…. Perhaps the discussion needs to be the definition of diversity and how the 2nd largest city in the Province can have an open and honest dialogue on all the issues affecting this great city. Perhaps it is time for the community associations to embrace this dialogue and perhaps it is time also to embrace the community Hub concept of Councillor Rasode and making it a reality in all the town centres of our city to hear what the citizens (theelectorate) really have to say.

Martin Rooney, Community Advocate

Surrey (Whalley), BC, Canada

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