SURREY – City council heard on Monday night (June 23) that Surrey City Hall won’t be pulling the pride flag up one of its three flagpoles during the city’s pride week celebrations.
As first reported in the Now, GLBT activist and Surrey resident Martin Rooney spoke out, enquiring why, in 15 years of celebrating pride in Surrey, the city had not officially flown the pride flag when other municipalities have been able to do so.
In effort to address the concern, the city prepared a report to see whether or not federal or provincial flag protocol could be bypassed in this circumstance. The review, which was presented on Monday night, concluded that the city would continue only to fly the federal, provincial and city flag.
"There was no vote against flying the pride flag," said Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. "We were reviewing our policy."
The decision was addressed in the corporate report, "thereby not allowing any public discussion," according to Rooney.
In an earlier interview with the Now, Rooney had said, "It’s 2014, and basically the hope of flying the flag is to tell everybody in Surrey that everyone is welcome."
Watts said that other municipalities may have extra flagpoles, which allows
them to fly the pride flag while Surrey does not. Others have a "mish-mash of policies right across the board," she said.
"New West, Maple Ridge, Vancouver, Victoria… we still have no clue how they manage to pass it if this is supposed flag protocol," said Rooney.
Watts noted that to get an extra flagpole for community reasons, the price tag would be a hefty $200,000.
"So, if that’s something that the community wants to fundraise for, we’ll participate in that and have that opportunity," she said.
Rooney does not believe that installing a fourth flagpole would cost as much as Mayor Watts claims.
Watts and other city councillors maintain that an absence of the pride
flag at city hall does not necessarily denote intolerance for diversity.
"With the pride week, they’ll be flying their flag inside city hall and they’ll also have a display up with information all week, with the upcoming fusion festival, they’ll be flying their flag beside 35 other countries," Watts said, noting that the city is a gold sponsor for the pride event.
Rooney has not been on the board for Surrey Pride Society for the past five years.
While Rooney doesn’t represent the Surrey Pride Society, the group’s vice-president Shawn Ewing said she endorses the whole process and hopes to see the flag fly as well.
"If the mayor wants the community to raise funds, I am keenly interested," she said.
"The decision last night was to keep the flagpoles in the official protocol capacity," Mayor Watts said.
She also maintains that the city did not breach protocol to have the Olympic flag flown during the 2010 Olympics but rather that it coincided with provincial protocol, since Surrey was an official training venue and celebration site of the 2010 Olympic Games.
"The Olympic flag flew on the same pole, underneath the municipal flag," said Rooney. "If you really want to do this, there’s your solution. However, last night policy was put in place that that solution wasn’t available."