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BC legislature flies rainbow flag for Sochi

Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, bucks city council solidarity trend and refuses

Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert (centre) successfully pushed the BC legislature to raise a rainbow flag Feb 13 in solidarity with LGBT Russians and athletes during the Sochi Games. Credit: Courtesy of Spencer Chandra Herbert

The rainbow flag is flying in front of the BC legislature in Victoria as a symbol of solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians and athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics, underway in Sochi.

The flag, which is an iconic symbol of gay pride, was raised Feb 13. It is the first time the flag has flown in front of the BC legislature.

Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says the gesture demonstrates that the province stands in solidarity against homophobia.

“I think it’s one symbolic way that we can show that BC won’t accept this kind of hatred that the Russian government has inflicted on its people,” he tells Xtra.

BC was the last Canadian province to raise the rainbow flag since the Olympics began on Feb 7, he says.

Chandra Herbert, who is gay, says he approached BC’s attorney general and the speaker of the House to request that the flag be flown and received confirmation Feb 12 that it would.

“It makes me very proud of British Columbia to see the rainbow flag flying over our legislature for the first time in our history. I raised concerns with the Speaker of the legislature that BC was the only province in Canada with no plans to fly the rainbow flag at the legislature, and I’m so pleased she, and the government, agreed to act,” he says in a press release.

Even as he stands in solidarity with gay Russians and pushes the BC legislature to stand with him, Chandra Herbert is maintaining his personal boycott against the Games themselves. He says he won’t watch the Olympics because Russia should never have been awarded these Games, given its discrimination against its LGBT citizens and the “hateful and homophobic” anti-gay propaganda law that president Vladimir Putin passed year.

In addition to provincial legislatures, the Pride flag is flying in front of several major Canadian city halls, including Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and St John’s.

Though a rainbow flag flies at Toronto City Hall, Mayor Rob Ford has objected and asked for its removal on Feb 7.

“This is about Olympics,” he said. “This is about being patriotic to your country; this is not about someone’s sexual preference.”

City officials refused to lower the flag. 

Eight hours northwest of Toronto, the city of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, has chosen not to support the increasingly cross-Canada gesture of solidarity.

As reported in the Sault Star, Mayor Debbie Amaroso called city hall a “place of neutrality,” adding, “the city does not raise flags in support of any protest.”