For immediate release
Emo, ON - Tonight the council of the Township of Emo defeated a resolution in support of LGBTQ2 Pride that was requested by Borderland Pride. The resolution would have proclaimed that June was "Pride Month" and had the municipality fly or display a rainbow flag for a week of their choosing in June.'
"We are extremely disappointed that this council failed to show leadership on diversity and inclusion," stated Douglas Judson, co-chair of Borderland Pride. "It is 2020. The equality of LGBTQ2 people is the law of the land and the human rights obligations of public officeholders and municipalities are well-established."
Borderland Pride is the LGBTQ2A Pride organization for the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario and Koochiching County in Northern Minnesota. Each year, Borderland Pride requests resolutions or proclamations in support of Pride from all of the area municipalities. Municipalities including Fort Frances, Morley (Stratton), International Falls, and Rainy River have routinely provided supportive resolutions.
"The defeat of this resolution is particularly distressing because of the world we find ourselves living in right now," stated Judson. "We face a global pandemic, where so many of our most vulnerable citizens, including LGBTQ2 young people, are isolated in unsupportive environments away from their friends or sources of support that they typically have access to."
The resolution was defeated in a 3-2 vote. Mayor Harold McQuaker, Councillor Harrold Boven, and Councillor Warren Toles voted against the resolution.
"Signalling our sense of acceptance, support, and inclusion as community leaders takes on renewed importance right now, especially in small communities," stated Judson. "This is the wrong message for community leaders to send to their young people."
A number of disturbing comments were made during the meeting - which was held over Zoom - including questions about why there wasn't a straight Pride flag. Councillors Harrold Boven and Warren Toles stated that they would only support a Pride resolution similar to the one adopted by their council last year, from which they had deleted all of the LGBTQ2-supportive language.
"As equity-seeking people, it is extremely frustrating to see leaders hide behind claims of misinformation and filibuster to mask their bigotry," stated Judson. "It isn't our job to educate people about very basic duties to citizens at this point."
Councillor Boven repeatedly tried to push the discussion to the next meeting, despite having notice that it would be considered on tonight's agenda. When pressed by Councillor Lincoln Dunn, Councillor Boven could not articulate any reason why the resolution could not move forward as presented.
"Pride continues to be most needed where it is least visible," stated Judson. "The resolution tonight was supported by Councillor Dunn and Councillor Lori-Ann Shortreed. We thank them for their kind and thoughtful comments at tonight's meeting. We are proud to have them as allies in the cause of inclusion."
Borderland Pride will consider all options at its disposal to affirm the equality and protection from discrimination of LGBTQ2 people.
Emo's town council adopted Borderland Pride's requested resolution in full in 2018. In 2019, its new council deleted all of the LGBTQ2-supportive language from the resolution. This year, the resolution was defeated.
Ontario's Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in the provision of a service. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has found in several cases that a municipal council's failure to provide a resolution to a Pride organization constitutes discrimination on a protected ground.
Borderland Pride was founded in 2017. 2020 will be its third Pride festival.
Emo's town council meeting was held over Zoom and telephone. At one point there over 20 Pride supporters listening in.