Members of Sarnia LGBTQ community celebrate council's decision to recognize Pride Month by raising multicoloured flags and display rainbow coloured lights at city hall. May 6, 2019 Photo by Melanie Irwin

‘These flags are a symbol of inclusion’

The City of Sarnia will fly rainbow flags this June to show support for the LGBTQ community.

Multicoloured flags will be raised along the waterfront and rainbow coloured external lights will be displayed at city hall during Pride Month.

Councillor Brian White said the decision, supporting a request from the Sarnia Pride and Transgender Association [SPATA], “points a light in the face of intolerance.”

“These flags are a symbol of inclusion, and that’s our opportunity here as a municipality — to promote inclusion,” said White. “You are who you are. The LGBTQ2I plus folks are who they are, and you are all welcome to be who you are in the City of Sarnia. At least in my City of Sarnia.”

White wished there was no debate.

“I wish we didn’t need to have a conversation about acceptance, love and tolerance. I wish who someone chooses to love, didn’t matter to complete strangers, who serve to gain nothing by opposing it, nor lose by accepting it.”

Councillors Dave Boushy and Margaret Bird voted against the recommendation. Councillor George Vandenberg was absent.

While voting in favour, councillor Terry Burrell said the ten delegates — who all campaigned to recognize Pride Month — need to realize that they’re “scaring a lot of people.”

“I don’t think they realize how aggressive they really are,” Burrell said, pointing out that only one side of the argument [the LGBTQ community] felt safe enough to voice their position in council chambers.

While few opposing remarks were made inside council chambers, members of the LGBTQ community and SPATA were confronted by citizens in the lobby following council’s decision.

SPATA members, Taylon Leduc, Rachel Dawson, Lila Palychuk, Ronee Capes, Kendra Druiett and Rose Druiett May 6, 2019 Photo by Melanie Irwin

SPATA members, Taylon Leduc, Rachel Dawson, Lila Palychuk, Ronee Capes, Kendra Druiett and Rose Druiett

SPATA Board Member Rachel Dawson shrugged it off.

“To me, I don’t find them preaching hate to us,” said Dawson. “They’re just trying to [express] their beliefs too. We believe how we are and how we should live our lives… and they have their own beliefs and it’s ok if they have their own beliefs. But, we have ours too.”

Dawson was thrilled by council’s decision.

“It’s nice to see Sarnia’s finally recognizing that it can be an inclusive town and with both flags being raised, it shows that we are ok here and we are safe.”

Dawson said flying the flags along the waterfront is “a good first step,” while city staff investigate the installation of five additional flag poles on city hall property in the future.

The flag poles could include a municipal flag, the flags of the three First Nations located in Lambton County and a community flag pole to be used by various community groups.