Alberta | City bans Pride flags on municipal property

(Regina) The student town of Westlock, Alberta, has voted in favor of a bylaw banning Pride flags and rainbow crosswalks on municipal property.

Shaylin Lussier, a member of the Westlock Gay-Straight Alliance, led efforts to have a crosswalk painted in Pride colors last year, for the first time in this town of 4,800 located north of ‘Edmonton.

This passage is now ready to be deleted.

“It was hard,” said Lussier, 18, in a telephone interview this week.

Jess Lucas, 15, also a member of the gay-straight alliance, helped paint the crosswalk and said she was heartbroken.

“It doesn’t just affect our group. This also affects different flags, such as the Métis and Inuit flag for truth and reconciliation, and the Ukrainian flag for the ongoing war. »

In February, a slim majority of the city voted to have only government flags flown and crosswalks painted with a white striped pattern.

There were 1,302 votes cast in the plebiscite, with 663 people in favor and 639 against.

The city’s mayor and city council had opposed the move, saying it would send a negative message for inclusiveness and hurt investment.

The Westlock Neutrality Team, a group that has launched a petition for change, says on its website that governments should not promote minority groups.

“Those who voted for neutrality did so with a genuine desire to keep our community whole and inclusive,” a post from the group on the website states.

Students said they felt great joy when they painted the crosswalk last year. It included black and white lines to represent allies who do not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, M addedme Lussier.

“I have received texts from adults in our community who are happy about the loss of the crosswalk. I’m older now so I can handle it, but I feel bad for the younger ones. »

Even if those who painted the crosswalk are unhappy, this slim victory shows that there is more support for the LGBTQ+ community than previously thought, said Cynthia Rondeau, an 18-year-old student.

“Years ago, the vote would not have been this close. The vote would have been won by an overwhelming majority,” explained Rondeau.

“It’s really good and it gives some hope that the city has the opportunity to develop.” There are more people, who even if they disagree, still show their appreciation and they are still allies with us. »

Jess Lucas said the crosswalk made members of the LGBTQ+ community feel seen.

“We appreciated the people who supported us. »

Mme Lussier said members of the gay-straight alliance can still find ways to promote inclusion in the community.

Some have already installed Pride flags in their yards. Other residents have asked students to paint their garage doors or driveways with rainbows, Lussier.

“There are a lot of little things we can do to make the city… more colorful,” Lussier.

The passage removed in spring

Westlock Mayor Jon Kramer said the vote cannot be overturned by the city council unless a plebiscite is held in the future and he calls for the ban to be overturned.

He said, however, that the council would also find other ways to accommodate marginalized groups, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Kramer said there is no firm date for removing the rainbow crosswalk, but it would likely be sometime in the spring.

Mme Lussier said it was impressive to know that all of Alberta and the rest of the country knew about what was happening in the community.

“I was born and raised in Westlock, and I’ve never really heard people acknowledge that we’re a town that exists, even in Alberta. »

Mme Lussier said most people told the students they supported their cause.

“There are just people doing everything they can to support us, even more than ever,” she said. Our Instagram is exploding. »

LGBTQ+ issues have become more prominent among conservative provincial governments.

More recently, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government announced plans to introduce rules in the fall requiring parental consent when students aged 15 and under wish to change their name or pronoun at school . Students aged 16 and 17 would not need consent, but their parents would need to be informed.

The province also plans to restrict gender-affirming treatment, teaching about gender and sexuality in schools, and the participation of trans women in sports.

“Right now, there are attacks on all fronts against trans and LGBT children,” said Mme Lussier.

Jess Lucas said members of the gay-straight alliance will continue to stay strong.

“We’re going to do everything we can to give back to our community and show a little love and support, and get a little love and support in return. »

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