The mayor of Burmaby says there is no formal policy barring an LGBT pride flag from being flown at city hall, despite his assistant emphatically telling a gay citizen no non-official flags of any kind are allowed at city facilities.
On June 19, a man emailed Elaine Wong, executive assistant to Mayor Derek Corrigan, expressing his disappointment in learning the City of Burnaby does not fly a rainbow flag during Pride Month (June) as many other area municipalities do.
“Shame on Burnaby!!” he wrote.
(The Burnaby resident asked not to be named in this story, fearing reprisals. “I have experienced both overtly and passive-aggressive homophobia in the building where I live,” he explained.)
Wong responded in an email written mostly in a blue font, but switching to bright red underlined letters to say: “We DO NOT raise any flag requests at any of our city facilities.”
A #Burnaby city staffer sent this email to a gay resident who asked to have the Pride flag flown at city hall. She emphatically told him a city policy barred any flag requests but Mayor Derek Corrigan later told me no such policy exists. pic.twitter.com/Lh0XsnbwEo— Kelvin🐙Gawley (@KelvinGawley) June 27, 2018
The man responded to Wong and wrote asking how that policy might be changed: “I want a pragmatic and open-minded local government to represent my concerns, not a parochial and narrow-minded one.”
But when the NOW reached out to Corrigan for an explanation of why such a blanket policy against flying flags was in place, he said no such policy has ever been passed by council, as far as he knows.
“I think it was an informal policy by the manager’s office to simply not entertain requests because it requires work and it requires decisions in order to be able to do anything like that,” Corrigan said.
He said council would be happy to consider a request to fly a pride flag.
“If the person is interested, they can remake the application or send an email directly to me,” he said.
The citizen also said he was disappointed that a formal request had to be made in order for city council to make a proclamation recognizing June 24 as Pride Day in the city. He said council should make the proclamation on their own initiative and that being forced to ask for it adds “insult to injury.”
“I have been contacting my gay friends throughout the Lower Mainland and Canada to let them know what is going on in Burnaby,” he wrote in the same email to Wong.
Wong responded, also in red underlined type: “ALL proclamation requests are to be sent for approval annually as we DO NOT automatically renew anyone’s!!!”
Corrigan said that the requirement for an annual request for a proclamation is indeed city policy.
He said proclamations are a symbolic gesture from council without much real consequence.
“There are many important areas that we deal with and a proclamation has no other significance than to recognize an event and to ensure that we recognize that there are people out there who this is very important to,” he said.
Asked whether a pride proclamation might stand apart from most other proclamations due to the historic oppression faced by the LGBT community, Corrigan said: “I wouldn’t want to put myself in that position of saying this one is more important.”