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Northern Ont. politician rejects flying Pride flag, says it represents a 'splinter group'

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A recent decision by the northern Ontario community of East Ferris, near North Bay, not to fly the Pride flag isn’t sitting well with some.

The small council voted 3-2 against in three separate votes recently.

While she supported flying the Pride flag, Mayor Pauline Rochefort stands by council’s decision.

“Although there was different points of view on this matter, we walk away unified,” she told CTV News.

“We believe in inclusiveness and tolerance and it is at the heart of our community … These are different points of views with respect to a flag, but I would say East Ferris is a very welcoming community for all citizens.”

Coun. Terry Kelly said he voted ‘no’ because the flag doesn’t represent a large enough section of the community’s population.

A recent decision by the northern Ontario community of East Ferris, near North Bay, not to fly the pride flag isn’t sitting well with some. (Photo from video)

“When we put a flag on municipal property and it’s only three per cent of the population of Canada, that’s a splinter group,” Kelly said.

“I don’t see any reason for that flag flying on municipal property.”

Deputy Mayor Lauren Rooyakkers took offence to that term.

“I am part of that splinter group,” she told council Tuesday, when she tried to have the initial vote reconsidered.

“I support people with LGBTQ and I know other mothers, fathers, families, communities and institutions support (them). So it is not just a splinter group. It is a bigger group that wants to have the flag raised. That wants to have acceptance, safety and connection.”

Bad precedent

Lynne Gouliquer is an associate professor at Laurentian University who does research on 2SLGBTQI-plus issues.

Gouliquer said the decision in East Ferris is a shame for the community and sets a dangerous precedent.

“Who aren’t they going to accept in the future? We could go down the long list of groups of small groups in Canada,” she said.

“If you want to call them splinter or whatever, we don’t have to go very far, even to Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour. Are they splinter groups too? Are we going to start saying we don’t want to accept them, we don’t want to show that we accept them?”

Gouliquer said this is a time for parents and allies of 2SLGBTQI+ – both in and outside East Ferris – to step up and voice their opinion.

“It’s an opportunity to stand up and say ‘no we’re for diversity, we’re for acceptance,’” she said.

Even a suggestion of a compromise to have the Pride flag up for just one day, instead of a whole month, fell on deaf ears.

Rochefort said she is hopeful the issue will return to East Ferris council in the future.

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