'...what are they still fighting for?'

CKTB - News - Dave Bylsma

The Mayor of West Lincoln has taken several controversial stances while discussing what he calls 'identity politics.'

While most municipalities in Niagara are proudly flying the rainbow flag in recognition of Pride Month, West Lincoln is not.

Mayor Dave Bylsma says a request did come across his desk, but it came at a busy time right at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. He said not examining the flag raising request was 'an oversight in all the COVID activity.'

A special council meeting will be held on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. to discuss whether the flag will fly or not.

During this morning's interview on CKTB, host Matt Holmes asked why the date for Pride Week isn't automatically recognized yearly instead of waiting for a formal request to come through.

"There's a lot of flags that could be flown," Bylsma explained. "And I guess fundamentally we're in a culture, and I mean in a larger North America context, where identity politics has been running rampant for decades. I don't know when you would say that identity politics kind of emerged, but it hasn't really been solving things. And if you look at race relations and Black Lives Matter and that response that All Lives Matter that kind of, for many people, strikes at the core of identity politics." 

He went on to say, "We just want to make sure that we have a policy that doesn't single out any one category of people as a subset over other ones because I think that we could divide Canada all different ways: French vs. English or Indigenous vs. the rest and what we end up having is this kind of controversy, this...it's very combative. And it seems that anybody who's asking for the whole, the unity -- I've received a lot of chatter and emails just saying, 'What's wrong with just the one flag?' It's always the perennial question. What's wrong with just a Canadian flag flying over a municipal office? Does identity politics even belong on a municipal flagpole? And I guess that's part of the discussion ongoing, to develop a policy. So we're going to do through the democratic process."

Holmes then asked Byslma if he held the belief that only the Canadian flag and a municipal flag should fly at municipal offices. Byslma said he does.

"30 years of identity politics, singling out a particular right or a particular grievance from one community against the next, what has that accomplished?" Bylsma asked in reference to the LGBTQ2+ community. "After 30 years we're more violent, we're yelling at each other louder and we're becoming more polarized."

He then connected the plight of the LBTQ2+ community to that of the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the globe since the death of George Floyd.

"We haven't been able to rectify any of the challenges of the past, any of the grievances of the past, it seems like all we do is make them real. For example, there were grievances in the past, no one is denying that. But today in Minneapolis there are more grievances - they have been set on fire. And there are people who are very upset and they are upset indiscriminately. They are upset at society. There's no shortage of people being violated by the very -- there were black store owners who were being vandalized and victimized by Black Lives Matter banner waving -- there's no shortage of that inconsistency. Why did that happen? Now there's a new grievance, so who do they peg that blame on? Well, I blame identity politics."

He then questioned whether George Floyd's death should be deemed a 'collective grievance.'

"There are always going to be injustices, correct. But in terms of rights what are they, what are anyone who's flying a flag whether that's Black Lives Matter in America or the Pride Flag, what are they still fighting for? Is it necessary? Or have they won?...I'm saying identity politics is not working. We have 30 years of identity politics that shows this is not the solution."

Bylsma then said, "In the Black Lives Matter, I would be holding the sign that says 'All Lives Matter.'

The mayor argued that the rights of all Canadians are protected under the law.

Holmes then pointed to Indigenous Treaty issues as examples where laws were not necessarily always upheld or enforced.

In response, Bylsma said, "Recently I drove past the reservation in Brant. And every entrance to the reservation, there are two armed guards. They have their guns out, they're Indigenous people, and they're protecting their reservation from any outsiders. And I think to myself, 'That's fire.' That's what securing and acknowledging Indigenous rights has produced. This military style opposition when they feel that they have been wronged, they take up arms. The Pride community, those who have been grieved in many ways, they aren't taking up arms like that.  I'm saying identity politics has had its run. It's had a fair trial in our societies, it's done good, but its not the final analysis either. And we can see all the tensions and we can draw a thousand lines through our society and none of that's helpful unless we start uniting under the Canadian flag."

Click here to listen to the full interview.