Pride committee to file human rights complaint after Norwich, Ont. bans flags on civic property

The president of a Pride committee is filing a human rights complaint after the Township of Norwich passed a motion to ban non-government flags, including Pride flags, on municipal properties.

The controversial debate in the rural southwestern Ontario community located east of London drew in large opposing crowds from across Oxford County to council’s meeting chambers Tuesday night. Amid growing boos from the public gallery, council voted 3-2 to approve the flag ban, with Mayor Jim Palmer breaking the tie.

Coun. John Scholten proposed the bylaw, saying that he believes civic flags best represent all groups of people.

“Whether flown together or apart, these (government) flags are all we need to represent the diverse and multicultural citizenship in Norwich Township,” he said. “By flying these flags alone on township property, we can coexist in peace and harmony no matter who we are or what we believe.

“I believe that to open the door to flying flags that represent any particular group, organization, or ideology will only divide rather than unite,” Scholten added.

Besides government flags, the only other banners allowed to be installed on township property, including streetlight poles, are those promoting  downtown businesses and downtown beautification.

Coun. Alisha Stubbs opposed the ban, saying “it’s no longer about inclusion. It’s directly, specifically, and horrifyingly discrimination (and) it’s a clear violation of the Human Rights Code.”

“This entire situation is sneaky. It’s demeaning. It’s nontransparent. It’s unethical, and further goes far beyond our Code of Conduct as counselors,” she said. “So even though that we are now amending it, this whole scenario is outright ridiculous.”

Council also voted against a motion, proposed by Coun. Stubbs, that would proclaim June as Pride month in the municipality beginning this summer.

Speaking with Global News, Tami Murray, president of the Oxford County Pride Committee, said that she left Tuesday’s council meeting feeling worried and concerned about the future of the community.

“I think our safety is at risk in Norwich, Ont., and I think that was demonstrated last evening, not just by banning pride flags, but they also did not endorse the Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee, and they also refused to proclaim Pride Month,” she said. “All of the above is very concerning in terms of their understanding of oppression and marginalization.”

“We have a community now endorsing and perpetuating homophobia, discrimination and oppression.”

Murray added that council has left her no choice but to file a human rights complaint.

“We are going to continue to be the voice for those who continue to be marginalized in Norwich and we will be moving forward with the legal process that we have every right to do,” she said.

The township of over 11,000 was thrown into in the spotlight last summer following a series and anti-LGBTQ-plus incidents, including multiple thefts and vandalism reports of Pride flags.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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