Kelowna won't fly Pride flag again after pro-life controversy quashes program
It's one step forward, one step back for the queer community of the largest city of B.C.'s Interior.
For the first time in 15 years, Kelowna mayor Walter Gray read a Pride Week proclamation at Mission Creek Regional Park for the city's Pride Week on August 18. (He had previously refused to sign a proclamation for Gay and Lesbian Pride Day in 1997. After being criticized for being discriminatory by the B.C. Human Rights Commission, he also refused to sign any other proclamations.)
But alas, the queer rainbow flag has also flown for the last time at Kelowna City Hall.
Only a few days after Gray's proclamation, Kelowna city councillors voted on August 20 to stop flying courtesy flags at City Hall, according to CBC News. The decision was made after a controversy arose over a proposed flag from the Kelowna Right to Life society, which is against abortion and euthanasia.
Unlike the rainbow flag, the Kelowna Right to Life society's flag included words. The society's original design included the term "pro-life", an image of a toddler, a female figure, and a senior, and the phrase "From conception to natural death". The design was rejected. The second design retained the term "pro-life".
If approved, the flag would have flown during the last week of September, which the city has proclaimed "Protect Human Life Week" for the past five years.
The society had mistakenly posted on its website that the city had approved its design.
City council's guidelines, special interest groups' flags can't "promote a point of view or organization of a political, ethical or religious nature".
In an interview with the National Post, Kelowna Right to Life society executive director Marlon Bartram stated that they had hoped to be treated as equally as other groups were treated. “There’s a lot of people in the country who support the idea that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. So I wouldn’t say that these festivities … are something shared by everybody,” he said in regards to the rainbow flag being flown during Pride week.
However, same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005. Both same-sex sexual activity and abortions were decriminalized in 1969. No Canadian law has governed abortion since 1988. (However, Parliament is slated to debate whether or not the point at which a fetus becomes a human being should be reconsidered. A final vote will take place on September 19.)
According to CTV News, city spokesperson Tom Wilson said that the program is being cancelled due to hundreds of complaints about the pro-life flag and because the outcry was also distracting from more serious concerns in the Okanagan city.
Consequently, the only flag that has been flown during the course of the program, the rainbow flag (which was raised for Pride week for two consecutive years as requested by the Okanagan Rainbow Coalition), won't be flown again.