Pride passed over in Emo

Megan Walchuk

Emo council has decided to not revisit a resolution presented by Borderland Pride.

Citing the council’s procedure manual, and the Robert’s Rules of Order, Councillor Warren Toles successfully argued that a defeated resolution cannot be reintroduced without a motion from either a member of the defeating side, or two thirds of council, depending on which set of rules council chose to follow.

The move ends a contentious debate on whether council would approve a proclamation from Borderland Pride, to declare June Pride Month, and to fly a Pride flag for a week of the Township’s choosing.

Identical proclamations have been accepted in Rainy River, Fort Frances and Morley.

The move was met with resistance from Councillors Lori Ann Shortreed and Lincoln Dunn, who were vocal in favour of the motion in the council’s regular meeting two weeks ago.

“The council built a dumpster fire of its own creation at the last meeting, and it’s just adding fuel to it by rejecting this resolution,” said Dunn.

At the previous meeting, Councillors Tole, Mayor Harold McQuaker and Councillor Warren Boven defeated the proclamation. Toles had disagreed with the wording, and wanted an alternate proclamation borrowed from last year. However, even that wording was contentious, because it was stripped of all of its supportive language for the LGBTQ2 community. Boven wanted more time to consider the proclamation, and asked it be revisited at the next meeting. McQuaker disagreed with flying a Pride flag in the community, because there “was no flag for straight people.”

McQuaker said he had endured harsh criticism for his words in the previous meeting, but was holding firm to stance in the name of equality, stating that no group should receive different treatment from another, and the decision was made democratically.

“In a democracy, majority rules,” he said. “There was no discrimination. None whatsoever.”
Boven agreed with that sentiment, noting that it was “not the proper role of government to have special days for groups.”

Dunn disagreed. He noted that the leading cause of death among children and young people is accident, yet for LGBTQ2 youth, it’s suicide.

He feels that rejecting the motion “legitimizes bigotry and homophobia in our community.”

The move was met with disappointment from Borderland Pride.

“Over 2 consecutive meetings, not a single one of these three members of council has been able to articulate their objection to the wording of the resolution we have requested,” stated Doug Judson, co-chair of Borderland Pride. “What that tells us is that the problem is their homophobia, and an unwillingness to separate private beliefs from public duties.”

The group is in consultations with a human rights lawyer, and are currently assessing their next move. A similar case took place in London, ON,in 1997, where the mayor blocked Pride festivities and refused to fly a Pride flag. The city was found guilty or human right violations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the mayor and city were each fined $5,000.

“We are not second-class citizens,” stated Judson. “Borderland Pride will pursue all options to assert and affirm the legal entitlement of LGBTQ2 people to be treated without discrimination in small northern communities like this one.”

We are very proud of the leadership shown by councillors Lincoln Dunn and Lori-Ann Shortreed, who both demonstrated an understanding of the challenges facing LGBTQ2 young people in communities like Emo,” stated Judson. “It is disturbing to hear their colleagues citing ‘majority rules’ as the basis for casting aside any concern for their wellbeing. That is oppressive language that is out of step with Canadian law, public policy, and values on minority rights.”