Pride and transgender flags were raised in front of Nelson city hall on Monday, and a banner was strung across Baker Street this week, in anticipation of Pride Weekend despite a council decision to no longer allow flags and banners.
In a short ceremony with live music, Kootenay Pride organizer Stephanie Myers and about a dozen other members of the Pride community raised the flags at city hall.
Nelson resident Jane Byers was one of the flag-raisers.
“I used to work on the 30th floor of a building in downtown Toronto,” Byers told the Star, “and I could see the flag being raised where I worked. It brought tears to my eyes. I was not fully out, and it meant so much to me because it was a week when we could be free.”
Byers said she wrote a letter to council advocating for having the flags at city hall.
“I cited the example of when our family was gay-bashed here in Nelson, lest people think it only happens only elsewhere. I feel it is important for the flag to be here, especially this year.”
City council voted May 10 to have no more banners and no more flags. The only exception provided for in the motion was that any group that applied before that date would be allowed this year.
Council’s rationale at the time was that having no banners or flags would avoid previous-year controversies such as the dispute over an anti-abortion banner.
Mayor John Dooley told the Star on Monday in a phone interview that he thought the Pride flags and banners had been applied for before May 10 had been grandfathered in. He later called back to say city staff told him the Pride organization applied for a banner before that date and this automatically included the flags.
Myers, however, said the group did not apply for a banner before May 10, but applied for both a banner and the flags in early August.
City councillor Keith Page, the only member of council or city staff present at the flag raising, told the Star he believed the May motion included a provision for allowing flags and banners for the rest of the year.
But the motion reads that the banner and flag policy “be repealed in its entirety” and that any flag and banner applications submitted and approved under the existing policy before May 10 be installed as planned during the rest of 2019.
Page said council and staff made an informal decision this month to allow the Pride flags and banner. Dooley told the Star he was unaware of these discussions.
Christopher Moore, another Pride member who raised the flags, said, “Youth in our community are threatened to be kicked out of their homes if they are queer or trans, and there are queer youth who commit suicide from the pain of not being accepted. There are queer and trans people who can’t get jobs in our town. Having flags and banners up raises hope for us and supports us.”
“There are many towns close by who have permanent displays,” Moore added, “and Nelson having the largest population of LGBT in our communities, we have to have some permanent display that this is a welcoming town. People come here and say, ‘Wow, this town is not only safe but it is celebrating us.’ We need that for safety and well being.”
The Kootenay Pride Parade starts at 3 p.m. on Sunday from the Central School parking lot. There are other Pride events throughout the weekend.