BY ROB SALERNO – Kelowna, BC, has become the latest Canadian city to hoist the rainbow flag at its city hall to mark gay and lesbian pride, capping off an often rocky relationship between the local government and its queer citizens.
The Kelowna Capital News reports that this is the first year that the Okanagan region city has pledged to raise the flag, as it recently adopted a universal policy for the raising of community flags.
In previous years, Pride has been a contentious event in the city. In 1997, then-mayor Walter Gray’s refusal to issue a proclamation for Gay and Lesbian Pride Day — he instead issued a proclamation for “Gay and Lesbian Day” — led to a human rights complaint, which Gray lost. In response, the city issued a policy banning all proclamations. A similar tactic was used by homophobic mayor Dianne Haskett of London, Ontario, around the same time. It kind of makes one wonder if small-town mayors across Canada were getting together and taking workshops in being petty, homophobic dickbags in the mid 1990s, doesn’t it?
Current Kelowna Mayor Sharon Sheppard was elected in 2005 and returned to the normal policy of issuing proclamations, including for Gay and Lesbian Pride. The Okanagan Rainbow Coalition even received some financial help from the city to put on the festival this year and in 2010.
Chalk this one up as a victory for the community.
Okanagan Pride runs from Aug 10 to 13 this year, although the whole week of Aug 8 to 13 has been proclaimed Pride Week. You can read the city’s official proclamation here.