Emails sent to the B.C. premier’s office in response to a rainbow flag flying over the legislature last February attacked the provincial government with homophobic rhetoric and threats.
The general themes that emerged from the emails included homophobia, bigotry, and hate (plus an often substantial amount of misinformation and poor grammar and spelling).
“I write this to you to express my disgust at your forcing your opinion on the Province at large,” one read. “Shame as the government buildings are adorned with the multi- striped symbol of homosexual Propaganda. There is nothing Gay and nothing to be Proud of in forcing a 'celebration' of sodomic sex.”
Many of the messages described the flag’s presence in Victoria as an attack on so-called ‘family values’.
“I strongly resent the flying of a flag of a sexual/political group over the legislature,” another email stated. “We are all aware of the spreading of propaganda and lies by the selfish infertile sexually confused men and women who demand that you bow to their whims every time they stamp their feet.”
The emails were published online by the province on April 1 in response to a freedom of information request. Their authors’ identifies were withheld in accordance with privacy laws.
The rainbow flag—a symbol of LGBT pride around the world—flying over the B.C. legislature was intended as a show of solidarity in response to homophobic legislation passed by lawmakers in Russia. At the time, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games were underway in Sochi, a resort town in Russia.
Government buildings and city halls across Canada flew rainbow flags during that time; the B.C. legislature was actually one of the last to do so.
Qmunity operations and development manager Kevin Keystone said that he initially tried to dismiss the emails’ contents without attributing them any importance. But he told the Straight that his reaction quickly turned to “sadness and fear”.
“It’s a really stark reminder that homophobia and hatred of LGBTQ folk is alive and well in British Columbia,” Keystone said in a telephone interview.
Several emails included the name of Spencer Chandra Herbert, the openly gay MLA for Vancouver-West End. Chandra Herbert had asked the B.C. attorney general and the speaker of the House to fly the rainbow flag at the legislature. It was raised on February 13.
Chandra Herbert's West End office was attacked on February 21 by Michael Melvin Williams who allegedly said he was angry about rainbow flags flying on Denman Street. Williams was charged with assault and mischief on March 3. Those allegations have not been proven in a court.
At least one message received by the premier’s office included a vague threat. “This government better not be part of sexual , radicle perverted stuff they are trying to introduce to school children,” it read. “It better not happen in BC or I will be coming to Victoria.”
Keystone said the homophobic contents of the emails serve as an explanation why it is still necessary for politicians to show their support for LGBT individuals through symbolic gestures like the raising of rainbow flags. He also noted that queer youth have the highest suicide rate for any identifiable group of young people.
“Awareness is still important because homophobia still exists,” Keystone continued. “Ultimately, the fight for equality is not going to be won until we can walk down the street of every town in British Columbia, large and small, holding our partner’s hand, and feeling safe and included.”