For immediate release
Tonight Mayor Harold McQuaker, Councillor Harrold Boven, and Councillor Warren Toles once again had the opportunity to show leadership for the Township of Emo on diversity and inclusion. They once again declined to do so.
“We are profoundly disappointed that these members of council failed to live up to their duties to their community and their legal obligations to equity-seeking groups like LGBTQ2 people,” stated Douglas W. Judson, co-chair of Borderland Pride. “It is clear that these individuals lack a fundamental understanding of both the challenges facing LGBTQ2 people, and of their own role as municipal officeholders.”
On tonight’s council agenda was a letter from Borderland Pride which outlined the discriminatory nature of the council’s May 12, 2020 decision not to adopt a resolution in support of Pride Month. The letter listed a number of resolutions for other community events which have received the support of Emo’s council. It also enclosed a petition asking council to reconsider its May 12 decision.
“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 Judson. “What that tells us that the problem is their homophobia, and an unwillingness to separate private beliefs from public duties.”
Like many Pride organizations across the country, Borderland Pride annually requests resolutions in support of Pride and LGBTQ2 inclusion from area municipalities. Several area municipal councils routinely provide the resolution as drafted. The resolution requested by Borderland Pride included recitals which set out the equality of LGBTQ2 people, and asked for the council to proclaim the month of June as ‘Pride Month’ and to display a rainbow flag in a prominent location of their choosing for one week.
“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.”
Borderland Pride has conferred with an eminent Canadian human rights lawyer and will update the community on its next steps in the coming days.
“We are very proud of the leadership shown tonight by councillors Lincoln Dunn and Lori-Ann Shortreed, who both demonstrated an understanding of the challenges facing LGBTQ2 young people,” stated Judson. “It is disturbing to hear their colleagues citing ‘majority rules’ as the basis for casting aside any concern for their wellbeing. That oppressive language is out of step with Canadian law, public policy, and values on minority rights.”
Borderland Pride is the LGBTQ2 Pride organization serving the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario and Koochiching County in Northern Minnesota. It was founded in 2017. 2020 will be its third Pride festival.
Emo's town council adopted Borderland Pride's requested Pride resolution in full in 2018. In 2019, its new council deleted all of the LGBTQ2-supportive language from the resolution. This year, council refused to adopt the resolution, defeating it in a 3-2 recorded vote on May 12. The 3 council members named above are responsible for the resolution's defeat.
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. Councillor Lincoln Dunn pointed this out to the council during the May 26 meeting.
Emo's town council meetings on May 12 and May 26 were held over Zoom and telephone. The meeting size on May 26 appeared to have been capped at 100 participants, which it met, raising concerns about the municipality’s open meeting obligations.
Borderland Pride launched a petition on May 16 to pressure Emo’s council to reconsider its decision. The petition currently has over 1,700 signatures, 68 of which are from Emo, 384 from the surrounding communities, and over 435 from other cities in Northwestern Ontario. Emo has a population of 1,400.
Since Emo town council’s May 12 meeting, Borderland Pride has also launched a grassroots “Pride Lives Here!” campaign, encouraging area residents and businesses to decorate their windows and properties for Pride. We have already placed a second order for our rainbow-flag campaign signs, which will be available for pickup in communities across the Rainy River District later this week.