By Jensen, Randy on May 21, 2019.
Greg Price and Trevor Busch
SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS – TABER
The Pride flag will be flying once again at the provincial building in Taber, but not before controversy swirled around the decision once again.
Petitions both supporting and banning the flag from flying at the local provincial building started on the website Change.org.
While a petition initiated by someone identified as “Alberta Citizen” asking Taber-Warner UCP MLA Grant Granter to disallow the raising of the Pride flag at the provincial building and is no longer posted, had broken the 1,000-signature barrier at its peak.
“Alberta Citizen” appears to be a local given the petition started by noting the person was informed of the Taber Pride celebrations by the town’s monthly newsletter.
The main reason for those who signed the petition and left comments was primarily religious, citing biblical passages including “We are not against the LGBT people, but we do feel it is necessary to speak up against their sin. We all sin and grieve our Creator daily. We all need the saving work of Jesus Christ. Please let’s not celebrate sin whatever it may be.”
It also claimed the rainbow colours in the Pride flag are actually a symbol of “covenant faithfulness,” and that “Christians are deeply grieved and hurt that a biblical symbol is used to represent non-biblical actions.”
The Taber Equality Alliance issued a press release shortly after hearing of the petition which stated” “We are deeply saddened by this. As Pride planning is moving into its final stages, we do not wish for this controversy. We have reported the petition to the site as hate speech and asked that they remove it. We do not wish to pursue it any further as it will overshadow our event. Pride is a peaceful protest and this petition is another reason why what we are doing is important.”
Days later in response, a second Change.org petition was started by Mickey James Wilson from Ryley, Alta., supporting the Pride flag at the provincial building. Numerous people have left messages after signing, with the petition at 1,024 signatures as of Monday morning.
Jillian Maxine, a member at large with the Taber Equality Alliance, spoke on the spirit of the counter petition.
“Speaking as a citizen of Taber, being a member of the Taber Equality Alliance and who works with patients under the queer umbrella, it is always really shocking when I hear the kind of religion-based fear that the first petition sounded like.
“First, it’s about a lot more than your sexual orientation, and not everyone has the same beliefs as you, but everyone has the same rights as you do,” said Maxine, who has been selected as the honorary person to raise the Pride flag in Lethbridge at its celebration later in June. “There are many different ways people can be privileged or disadvantaged in our community. Reading through the first petition (commentators), there are some people who might be in a demographic (Low-German speaking Mennonites), who do not always get a fair deal around Taber.
“Any time religion is used as a way to paint us all under the same brush and not say ‘my religion says this is what I can and cannot do’ but my religion says ‘this is what you should not be allowed to do’ … that’s a real problem for a person like me in the community. We all believe different things, but we should all be able to exercise rights freely. Yes, you can believe what you like, you can write a petition if you like, but the minute those beliefs make you talk down to or try and suppress other people, you have to question the true leader. Who are you really following?”
Controversy has involved the Pride Flag all three years it has been featured in Taber. Town council barely passed allowing it to fly at Confederation Park in 2017 by a 4-3 vote, after defeating a motion to have it fly in front of the municipal office. The flag would later be stolen and then burned after it was raised the second time. The flag was raised a third time with people volunteering to camp out at the flag site to ensure its safety.
The fallout from the incident had the town rescind its flag protocol policy in January 2018, in which administration noted before the decision, “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.” The previous flag policy and its respective procedure were built on a number of existing flag policies from across Canada and encompassed the flag protocols from the federal and provincial governments. Under the previous policy, requests for guest flags to be flown on the Community Flag Pole were subject to the sole discretion of council for approval. The decision was made in 2018 to fly only the Canadian, Albertan or Town of Taber flags on town-owned poles.
However, former NDP Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen invited the group to fly the rainbow flag at the provincial building, in which the Taber Equality Alliance requested the same thing for 2019’s Pride Event with the new United Conservative Party provincial government.
On Friday, in a written statement, the provincial Infrastructure Ministry said it will be permitting the Taber Equality Alliance to raise the Pride rainbow flag for one week at the provincial building.
On Friday, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter – to which the opposing petitions were both addressed – deferred any decision or statement on the matter to his cabinet colleague, Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda.
Hunter has confirmed he will not be attending this year’s third annual Pride Day on June 1 which runs from 1-6 p.m. at the provincial building and Confederation Park, citing having a previous engagement that day, according to the Taber Equality Alliance.
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