A small municipality in southwestern Ontario has voted to prohibit the display of Pride flags and other non-civic flags on municipal property and streetlight poles.
Norwich, Ontario’s new bylaw allows only flags representing the municipal, provincial, and federal governments, as well as banners linked to the promotion of downtown businesses or downtown beautification, to fly on township land.
Coun. John Scholten proposed the original bylaw at a Tuesday night council meeting, and it especially targeted Pride and Progress banners.
After the Township of Norwich passed a motion to prohibit non-government flags, including Pride flags, on municipal properties, the president of a Pride committee filed a human rights complaint.
The contentious discussion in the rural southwest Ontario municipality east of London drew sizable opposing groups to council’s meeting rooms on Tuesday night from all over Oxford County. Council voted 3-2 to approve the flag ban, with Mayor Jim Palmer breaking the tie amidst escalating jeers from the audience.
Coun. John Scholten proposed the bylaw, saying that he believes civic flags best represent all groups of people.
“Whether flown together or apart, these (government) flags are all we need to represent the diverse and multicultural citizenship in Norwich Township,” he said. “By flying these flags alone on township property, we can coexist in peace and harmony no matter who we are or what we believe.
Only banners promoting downtown businesses and downtown beautification are permitted to be hung on township property, including streetlight poles, aside from government flags.
Council also rejected a Coun. Stubbs resolution that would have declared June to be the municipality’s Pride month starting this summer.
Mayor Palmer declared that he agreed with the non-government flag ban because it represented the views of his residents.