In the midst of the controversy surrounding the decision by Alberton town council not to fly the Pride flag, the rainbow colours were raised above Charlottetown city hall on Friday.
Both Charlottetown and Summerside, along with some other municipalities, flew the Pride flag above their respective city halls on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown attended a short flag-raising rally on the corner of Kent and Queen streets at noon, pledging to do his part to provide a more inclusive city.
Town staff would be looking into creating more gender-neutral washrooms in order to respect transgender individuals, he said.
"Those are little steps that we're taking. Those little steps add up to bigger steps," Brown said.
But, for several of the people who attended the Charlottetown event, the events in Alberton cast a shadow.
Daniel Boudreau, chairperson of Pflag Canada P.E.I., said he believed the unanimous decision by Alberton’s town council was discriminatory.
"There were a lot of excuses that were given that were veiled discrimination," Boudreau said.
"It's a matter of 'we don't want to deal with it.' But we are here. We're not going away.”
Boudreau said many LGBTQ+ youth in rural towns in P.E.I. often experience homophobia and transphobia. Many feel they don’t belong in these communities.
“People who live in rural communities like that feel that they have to leave P.E.I. because of these issues," Boudreau said.
"A lot of people who support raising the flag kind of went out and bought out the dollar stores for Pride flags. I know my son and a lot of his friends, they were kind of making it their goal to put things up and to just kind of show support.”
LGBTQ+ youth are much more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual peers, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
But Alberton Mayor David Gordon insisted the decision not to raise the Pride flag was based upon a lack of clear policy from the town related to flags.
"Trust us, we have nothing against these people," Gordon told The Guardian.
"If you open it up to one, you open it up to everyone."
Gordon said the three flag poles in front of Alberton’s Town Hall were reserved for the Canadian, P.E.I., and Alberton flags.
"Whether you're gay or lesbian or whatever, those flags still represent you to come into our community," Gordon said.
Gordon said the town had also declined requests from other groups to fly flags in the past. He also said he had received “hate-mail” messages on Facebook.
Michelle Arsenault, who lives near Alberton, has begun handing out Pride flags to her friends and family. Since Monday’s council meeting, she said town residents have begun planting pride flags in front of the town’s welcome sign and at the local United Church.
"A lot of people who support raising the flag kind of went out and bought out the dollar stores for Pride flags," Arsenault said.
"I know my son and a lot of his friends, they were kind of making it their goal to put things up and to just kind of show support.”
She added that she believed Gordon and his colleagues on council were kind people.
A manager at the Alberton Great Canadian Dollar Store confirmed to The Guardian that the store had sold out of large-sized pride flags and had seen increased sales in smaller flags.
"I've sold 98 of them just today,” said store manager Tiffany Gallant.
“And that's not including the little ones or the car flags or the big ones we've already sold out of."