On May 6, city councillors approved a group of largely symbolic gestures designed to show support for Sarnia’s LGBTQ community.
After hearing from eight speakers, all in support of the Sarnia Pride and Transgender Association, they voted 6-2 to:
* Recognize June as Pride month in Sarnia
* Fly the pride and transgender flag during June at a non-City Hall location
* And, if possible, use City Hall’s exterior light to display the rainbow colours
Council also requested a future staff report on the feasibility of erecting five waterfront flagpoles to fly First Nation, municipal and community group flags.
Below is a synopsis, in order, of what councillors said and how they voted. Coun. George Vandenberg was absent. Mayor Mike Bradley voted yes but did not comment.
BILL DENNIS: Yes
He brought forward the resolutions, saying Sarnia needs to catch up to other communities that make all residents feel supported.
“I think we can use some reinforcement on our image as a welcoming community,” he said. “A recent media story indicated that we are rated higher in Ontario for hate crimes. Although this was explained, and corrected by our police chief, that thought is still out there, and that perception.”
BRIAN WHITE: Yes
“Make no mistake, (despite) this show of solidarity, division does remain in the community. If we’re afraid of shining a light on that then we have bigger problems. I’ve heard that used as a reason not to fly this flag – that we don’t want to create bigger problems. I’d rather point the light directly in the face of intolerance. These flags are a symbol of inclusion, and that’s our opportunity here as a municipality to promote inclusion.”
MARGARET BIRD: No
“As a councillor I’m here to represent everyone in the community, not just select groups. Granting this current request would set a precedent, and there are thousands and thousands of groups that would like to come forward if we grant this request. We don’t have the space to do that. We cannot facilitate all of that. If you treat people differently, they will feel different. And it’s important that we treat everyone equally. Issues such as suicide, bullying and harassment are not limited to just one group.”
NATHAN COLQUHOUN: Yes
“In the last few weeks there have been some really simple suggestions made on where we can further show hospitality, this time though, showing it to people who have rarely experienced it throughout history. The LGBTQ+ community has rarely been shown hospitality by our political institutions, whether it be through direct laws that limit their rights, direct hatred because of their difference, or indirect systemic violence … Raising a flag (is a small gesture) that signals to this community that it is their city too.”
DAVE BOUSHY: No
“I love everyone, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. I do. I love everyone in this community, including the groups that we talked to. But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything, just because I love them, I love all the people, especially here, that I don’t have to agree with what they said and what they did.”
MIKE STARK: Yes
“I will vote for the motion because it’s the right thing to do.”
TERRY BURRELL: Yes
“There are two sides to this argument, but only one side felt safe enough to come here. There was nobody on the other side, who were brave enough, strong enough, felt safe enough to come forward to give their position, and I think that that’s something that this community has to look at … I actually will be supporting this motion, but I do think that they, the people who made presentations here today, have to realize that they are also scaring a lot of other people … I don’t think they realize just how aggressive they really are.”