NORTH PERTH – Clerk Lindsay Cline brought forward a report to council on May 16 that proposed making changes to the municipality’s policy on raising flags and recommended flying a Pride flag provided by Stratford-Perth Pride at the municipal office from June 1 to June 30.
“North Perth’s policy for flying banners and flags and proclamations states that flag and banner flying be limited to nationally recognized charities and local organizations,” said Cline. “It is staff’s interpretation that an organization must be incorporated to be considered a local organization under this policy. As of April 1, Stratford-Perth Pride is an incorporated non-profit organization.”
Staff recommended that the policy changes to add definitions of “Nationally Recognized Charity” and “Local Organization.”
“Nationally Recognized Charity” means a registered charity approved by the Canada Revenue Agency that uses its resources for charitable activities and purposes that benefit the community. “Local Organization” means an incorporated association, club or society that is organized and operated exclusively for social welfare, civic improvement, or other related purposes.
Staff also recommended adding a note to state that political or religious organizations aren’t part of these definitions.
“I’ve had several conversations dating back to last year regarding discussion on this flag-raising for them,” said Deputy Mayor Doug Kellum. “I disagree that it should be flown at the municipal office. That being said, if we have another location for it, that may be understanding, but I will not be in support of a flag being raised at the municipal building, and I would also request a recorded vote on this.”
Coun. Allan Rothwell asked for clarification on the number of flag poles the municipality has, the flags on them, and whether it’s “legal” or appropriate to have two flags on one pole or a separate pole.
“I’m not against the raising of the flag,” he said. “I’m just asking because we had this issue come forward in another circumstance.”
CAO Kriss Snell said that there are three flag poles at the municipal office. One is flying the Canadian flag, one flying the provincial flag and one flying the North Perth flag. In the past, charity flags have been flown beneath the North Perth flag, or the proposed flag replaced it.
Coun. Matt Richardson said he is in favour of flying the Pride flag.
Kellum jumped back into the chat.
“Supplementary, just to be clear, I am in favour of raising the flag, but just the location I am not in favour with as I’ve had several comments regarding it,” he said.
Coun. Neil Anstett asked if there had been a discussion of a flag-raising event.
Cline said they had not discussed an event.
“At this time, I have to echo what the deputy mayor has brought forward,” said Coun. Terry Seiler. “I totally agree with what he has said. I’m not against flying the flag, but I think our municipal office isn’t the right place to do it, and we’re maybe going to open up a can of worms to future flags, so I think we need to leave our municipal property as is – the three flags we fly. I’ve had a lot of people bring this to me also.”
Cline said staff stood behind the recommendation in the report.
“I know some other municipalities have something like a community flag pole where they specifically have flags from different organizations on that flag pole,” she said. “We don’t have a community flag pole here in North Perth, so we are recommending the flag pole here at the municipal office.”
Richardson said he felt this was a warranted issue to do.
“I cannot certainly understand Deputy Mayor Kellum and Coun. Seiler, where they are coming from, but in response to the clerk’s comment in the future. I’m in favour of this request today … I know in the past we have flown other flags.”
Duncan agreed with looking to have a community flag pole, and he suggested the centre of the roundabout as a location.
Seiler took the opportunity to suggest asking for a report from staff on a community flag and a deferral of a decision about raising the Pride flag.
Mayor Todd Kasenberg conferred with Cline.
Cline said the council had to decide whether it would entertain the recommendation in the report.
“The clerk raises the issue that Pride month begins June 1,” said Kasenberg. “This is the last council meeting before June 1, so if we are asked to push this aside and choose an alternate resolution, we would not be able to meet the timeline that Stratford-Perth Pride has for the raising of this flag.”
He read the motion from the report into the record, allowing council to decide whether to proceed.
Rothwell moved the motion. Kasenberg asked Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen to second it, having already heard Seiler’s concerns.
She seconded it.
Snell suggested an additional resolution be considered after to give direction for a report regarding a community flagpole as part of 2023 budget considerations.
“I feel strongly as a former educator; we have to be very inclusive towards members of our entire community,” said Andriessen. “I know as a former school board employee, we flew the Pride flag in every school in our school board on our flag poles for the entire month of June, and we’ve been doing that for five years. So, this is something I am very accustomed to, and that’s something I feel is very important for inclusivity in our community. I know that it’s quite new for our residents to see and understand. Still, it’s being more and more accepted and is part of inclusivity in our communities for sure, so that’s where I am coming from just based on my experience in the education system.”
Coun. Julie Behrns said she had no issue with the flying of the flag.
“I think it would be far more important to look at a couple of spots for community flags to be flown and keep municipal locations separate from that.”
Her concern with the motion was technical, and she felt it would be best to separate the amendment of the municipal policy from the approval of flying the Pride flag.
“It’s simply splitting it into two, and I believe the policy’s amendment should be done first,” she said.
The mayor conferred with the clerk again.
“The opportunity here is that staff have interpreted what the policy says. They want to clarify the terminology around what is a nationally recognized charity and what is a local organization,” said Kasenberg. “If that were done, it seems highly likely, CAO Snell, correct me if I am wrong, but then it would be up to staff to implement the policy. In this case, council would not see any future requests for flag raisings. Correcting the policy would probably do the work because then staff would have council’s authority to act and approve these things unless council deliberately said no.”
Snell agreed with that interpretation.
“Part of the problem with the policy is it isn’t very clear, so if the policy were revised as per staff recommendation, we would make those decisions based on the policy and not require council approval,” he said.
Rothwell and Andriessen agreed to withdraw the motion as worded in the report as long as it was understood they would move forward immediately with the policy change first and a subsequent motion regarding the approval of flying the flag.
The policy change was approved unanimously.
Council “deliberately said no” to allowing staff to approve flying the Pride flag, so a second motion was tabled.
“I believe it most appropriate at this time to pass a motion that approved the flying of the Pride flag at the municipal office from June 1 to June 30, 2022,” said Behrns. “I believe that simply covers it.”
Seiler asked for confirmation the motion would only cover 2022.
Kellum, Seiler, and Coun. Dave Johnston voted against flying the Pride flag. The motion to fly the flag passed 7-3.
A motion directing staff to bring back a report regarding a location for a community flagpole passed unanimously.
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