Mayor Matt Brown delivers an apology to London's LGBTQ2 community on the steps of city hall, January 12, 2018. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Brown Apologizes For Gay Pride Slight

It was an apology some members of London’s LGBTQ2 community thought would never come.

More than 20 years after the City of London and its then-mayor Dianne Haskett refused to issue a gay pride proclamation, the city’s current mayor Matt Brown apologized Friday for the past discrimination.

“Today I stand before you and wholeheartedly say I am sorry,” said Brown as the crowd that gathered on the steps of London city hall for the historic moment erupted into cheers.

“It hurts. It hurts to know that any Londoner was ever made to feel unworthy, unwelcome, unloved because of who they love and because of their gender identity,” said Brown. “I am here to tell you that everyone in this community is worthy and everyone in this community is welcome in 2018.”

It was 1995 when Haskett and the majority of city council refused to issue a gay pride proclamation and would not fly the rainbow flag outside of city hall. At the time, Haskett had said there was a policy to decline controversial proclamations. The decision was backed by council in a vote of 13-5.

Council’s decision led to the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO), led by Richard Hudler, to file a Human Rights Complaint. Two years after the slight, Haskett and the City of London were found guilty of discrimination. Both were fined $5,000.

Mayor Matt Brown speaking with Richard Hudler. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Mayor Matt Brown speaking with Richard Hudler

Hudler, who stood alongside Brown as the apology was issued, can still remember how he felt all those years ago, when the proclamation was shot down.

“I was quite surprised because just a year or so before Hamilton had had a similar incident and they had gone through a human rights complaint and had won. So I didn’t really expect us to have much problem with it,” said Hudler.

He said he never dreamed an apology for the historic wrong would ever be given.

“When we see what is going on in the world today and the pushback against human rights… something like this is a push in the other direction. I think that is so helpful and so good to see,” said Hudler.

Brown took offence to people suggesting the apology was just political grandstanding in an election year.

“I am apologizing because I believe we simply cannot afford to be silent bystanders any longer… I want every young person in our community to not be afraid of who they are and to know that this city stands behind them,” said Brown.

The idea to issue the apology came from Megan Walker, who was a city councillor in 1995. She got the idea after watching Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issue a similar apology to the LGBTQ2 community in the House of Commons last November and approached Brown about it.

“It’s very, very difficult to find forgiveness for such an injustice without somebody acknowledging that there had been an injustice in the first place,” said Walker. “There was an acknowledgement today that what happened was wrong and an apology has been given and I think that goes a long way toward forgiveness and healing.”

Murray Furniss was among those in attendance for the apology. He said correcting the past wrongdoing by the city gives the LGBTQ2 community a fresh start.

“Today is like a new rebirth,” said Furniss. “Now we are all happy and we are going to have a bigger and better Pride this year.”