TABER - UPDATE 10:00 p.m. The Town of Taber flap over a Pride flag raising has been trumped (no pun intended) by the province.
The town released a statement to LethbridgeNewsNOW at noon on Wednesday (Jan 31) with the following information:
"Moving forward, all Town-owned flagpoles will only fly the aforementioned flags [Canadian, Albertan, or Town of Taber flags on any town-owned flagpoles] except in the instances of visiting dignitaries. This removes the Confederation Park flagpole’s designation as the Community Flagpole, and no requests to fly any other flags will be considered in future as per the amendment to this policy.
However, the above motions do not prevent flags from being flown in Confederation Park should a group wish to fly them on temporary flagpoles or by other means during their event when they have rented the Cornfest stage and/or the Gazebo.
“The Town of Taber encourages any group to fly their respective flags in whatever way they see fit during their events as long as it is done with respect for Town property,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop, “we look forward to the Taber Pride Celebration occurring in June, and wish the Taber Equality Alliance every success for their event.”
No further comments will be issued by the Town of Taber on this matter."
The Pride flag will not be raised on the community flagpole in Taber’s Confederation Park this year.
According to a letter sent to the Taber Equality Alliance Society, Town Council denied the request the society made in Nov. 2017, to raise the flag for one week in June 2018.
A copy of the letter (pictured above) from the Town of Taber, dated Jan. 25, 2018 from CAO Cory Armfelt, states:
"MOVED by Councillor Tams that Council declines the Taber Equality Alliance Society's request to fly the Pride flag on the Community flagpole."
The letter goes on to inform the society that members may fly the flag on a temporary basis from the CornFest Stage, or the town Gazebo.
Although no reason was given for the decision in the letter, according to a “Council Request for Decision” Jan. 22,
"The Town’s Flag Protocol Policy and Procedures were adopted in July 2017, and states that the flagpole in Confederation Park be designated as the Community Flagpole, where groups can request flags be flown on a first-come, first-serve basis up to one week at a time.
It is up to the sole discretion of Council for approval.
Following the double vandalism of the Pride Flag in 2017, considerations as to the safety and security of property and people must be taken into consideration."
One of the alternatives Council was given by town administration, was also to remove the Confederation Flagpole as the designated community flagpole and bring the amendments to a future council meeting.
In March 2017, Council granted permission for the Pride flag to be flown from the pole in Confederation Park after being denied use of the ones in front of the Town Hall.
The first flag was stolen, while a second was burned. A third flag was then raised without incident. Co-Chair of Taber Equality Alliance, Kathleen McKenzie, says she's disappointed in Council's decision this year.
"It is designated as a community flagpole. That's why we requested it."
She's not aware either, whether any other groups have made a request to fly another flag.
A statement on the Equality Alliance's Facebook page reads:
"Though we are saddened by this decision, we shall stay strong and resilient in the face of adversity and remember what it is we are trying to achieve.
Every day we stand tall to show others the discrimination that still exists in our community; we stand against hate and ignorance in all its forms.
We recognize that there are different points of view and we invite town council and the citizens of Taber to stand with us for a safe and inclusive community for all."
LNN has reached out to the Town of Taber for comment. We were told we would be contacted "if they decide to comment."
Chair of the Lethbridge PrideFest Society, Devon Hargreaves, says if needed, they will hold the pride flag during Taber Celebrations.
"If this decision doesn't get reversed, The Lethbridge Pride Fest Board would be willing to stand there with the flag all day and support them, so the board can focus on their event."
The Taber Equality Alliance Society is asking members of the community and others to send letters of support to the group, so they can take them back to Town Council.
It turns out, the above effort may not be necessary, as news of the rainbow flag fiasco made it to the legislature. By late afternoon, NDP Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen, used her Twitter account to invite the alliance to fly its Pride flag at the provincial building in Taber.
"Dear Taber, Your 1st flag was stolen, 2nd burned. It would be an honour to fly your next Pride flag from the Taber prov building," Jansen tweeted
Someone challenged Jansen, wondering why the equality group doesn't fly the flag on its own flagpole.
"They don’t have to," Jansen responded. "The Gov of Ab recognizes the Pride flag as a powerful symbol of equality & Inclusion. Proud to raise it for Taber."
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