Leamington to Stay Away from Raising Community Flags

AM800-NEWS-Leamington-town-hall-September-24-2019

Leamington council is taking a hands off approach when it comes to flying flags at town hall.

After much debate, council opted not to make any event proclamations or raise any flags supporting local organizations.

Mayor Hilda MacDonald says it's not a slight to anyone, just a matter of council not wanting to pick and choose who to support.

She says council also wants to avoid any legal problems.

"We had thought that it would be nice to raise flags for different organizations, but then we did a little bit of research and found that some cities are getting into trouble with organizations they don't want to endorse and then, of course, it becomes legal and we don't need that kind of aggravation," says MacDonald.

The debate was sparked after a Mexican flag was raised at a festival in the town earlier this month.

MacDonald says the town doesn't want to be perceived as supporting anything negative.

"I feel bad that we can't raise the Francophone flag and the Autism flag. That is not an issue at all," she says. "We're all about those kind of things, but when we get into different countries that have issues going on, terrorism issues and so on, we don't want to take stands like that."

am800-news-leamington-mayor-hilda-mcdonald-july-2019

Leamington Mayor Hilda McDonald is supportive of the Prosper-Us initiative in her community, July 24, 2019 (by AM800's Peter Langille)

She says other councils have experienced trouble in the past.

"I believe the mayor of London was sued for not raising a pride flag. So it certainly isn't because we're not appreciating the people in our community or the organizations, it's just that when we have controversial ones we don't feel that it is our place to take positions on those kinds of sides," she says.

In 1995, London Mayor Dianne Haskett refused to issue a Gay Pride Proclamation on the basis that she'd previously formulated a policy of declining controversial proclamations. London City Council also declined to issue the Gay Pride Proclamation. An official complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission which ultimately ruled that Haskett’s actions had been discriminatory. London was ordered to officially proclaim a Pride weekend, which it eventually did in 1998.

MacDonald adds that, moving forward, council will likely evaluate flag requests on a case by case basis, but a discussion on a new policy still needs to take place at a future meeting.