Wednesday, April 8, 2020

BC Human Rights Tribunal: Rainbow Flag allowed to be flown at City Hall/Timms

Langley City council passed a motion in the summer of 2016 to allow the Rainbow Flag to be flown on the flagpole at City Hall/Timms Community Centre annually to coincide with Vancouver’s annual Pride Week.

As stated in the original motion,“the City of Langley is an inclusive and diverse community that acknowledges and respects all people regardless of their colour, race, region, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.”

The Rainbow Flag is an international symbol of inclusiveness and diversity.

Seniors of Langley representatives, Langley City council, and others holding the rainbow flag in July 2019. Select image to enlarge.

The Rainbow Flag has been flown at City Hall/Timms for one week, three summers in a row at the request of LGBTQ+ members of our community. Last year, the request to raise the flag came from the LGBTQ Seniors of Langley who have faced a lifetime of discrimination because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

The City also allows flags to be flown at City Hall/Timms to “recognize visiting dignitaries, City challenges, and civic events and to allow not-for-profit community groups to promote local events.”

Since I’ve been on council, there have only been a handful of these requests each year.

Langley City as a government body must be neutral when it comes to the expressions of any religious preference. As such, religious flags are not permitted to be flown at City Hall/Timms.

In the winter of 2018, a complaint was filed with the BC Human Rights Tribunal regarding Langley City’s flag policy.

Yesterday, the BC Human Rights Tribunal upheld Langley City’s flag policy.

An excerpts from that decision:

Similarly, the City’s prohibition against flying religious flags while flying the Rainbow Flag cannot be seen to amount to a distinction that is discriminatory. Rather, these acts are all in the service of equity. They increase the participation and representation of the LGBTQ+ communities in an attempt to offset the historical disadvantages experienced by these communities. They help bring LGBTQ+ community members to equal standing with heterosexual and cisgendered individuals, who have not experienced such societal disadvantages. They ensure that the City maintains a neutral public space free from coercion, and judgment on the part of public authorities in matters of spirituality. Altogether, they advance the purposes of the Code to foster a society in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life of British Columbia and to promote a climate of understanding and mutual respect where all are equal in dignity and rights.

For more information, please read the full decision.

No comments: