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Alberton town council missed an opportunity this week to show its support for the Island’s LGBTQ+ community.
All it had to do was grant a request to fly the Pride flag at town hall on Friday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Unfortunately, town council voted unanimously to reject the request from Pride P.E.I. and the P.E.I. Transgender Network.
The town’s municipal flag had been replaced with the rainbow Pride flag the past two years to honour Pride Week. But that was the decision of the town’s maintenance worker, not the will of council.
People in the community noticed and complained.
This time, council shot down the request, and they were armed with reasons.
There are only three flag poles, and they are intended for the municipal, provincial and Canadian flags. There was also the slippery slope argument that allowing this request would force the town to fly the flag from any group that made the request.
It’s disappointing that Alberton has taken this stance.
For one, there is no slippery slope. Council can use common sense and distinguish between frivolous requests to fly a flag and a request that is based on human rights and the positive support for groups that have faced, and still are facing, discrimination in society.
P.E.I. Inter-Pride, a coalition of gender and sexual diversity organizations, took the moral high ground by calling for peaceful protests on Friday in response to Alberton’s decision. The coalition also encouraged Islanders to proudly display Pride flags to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biophobia.
And, as Charlottetown proved, only three flagpoles were needed.
In front of a cheering crowd, Charlottetown raised the Pride flag in place of its municipal flag on Friday at city hall.
Doing so was symbolic and a proud moment for the community.
But more than that, it served as a reminder about what we expect from our elected representatives, namely, to be leaders.
Charlottetown and other communities that raised the Pride flag didn’t find ways to reject the request. Instead, they acted like true leaders, found ways to overcome any obstacles and arrived at a solution.
Yes, once again, a fourth pole wasn’t needed.
Speaking to the Journal Pioneer after council’s vote, Alberton Mayor David Gordon realized that there would likely be “some flak” over the decision.
He’s right. Even though council provided reasons, that still isn’t going to stop some on the Island from concluding the decision was based on bigotry, whether that’s warranted or not.
This dispute is a black eye on the community.
And, unfortunately, everyone is getting painted with the same brush.
The good news is the community can change the story if it doesn’t like its newfound negative reputation. Let’s see if that happens when the opportunity to do the right thing comes around again next year.