Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Stuck in the Dark Ages in Truro, N.S.
Just when you thought we were alive, well and living in 2007, we get an awful reminder from out east that queer folk remain quite unwelcome or unappreciated in some parts of Canada.
The story this week about Truro, Nova Scotia mayor Bill Mills (pictured) is truly disturbing. Truro is a town of about 45,000 north of Halifax.
Mills refused to fly the gay pride flag at city hall for this week's celebrations, saying doing so would promote a lifestyle that conflicts with his religious views - and most of the town's council backed him.
"There are writings in the book of Romans chapter one, to name a few - basically I have to go with that conviction, and I know it's not a popular one," Mayor Mills told the press.
Wow, to hear a public official make such a statement in 2007 in Canada! Your religious views allow you to discriminate against other human beings?
The mayor insisted, as a Christian, he has a right to his opinions, and he stands behind his decision.
"The mayor of Truro has embarrassed a lot of Christians by interpreting the bible in a very unfavourable way," said Rev. David Fletcher, an Anglican priest. "If we want to shout bible passages back and forth, my bible bullet would come from Galatians in Chapter 3, where St. Paul says that in Christ, there is no more exclusion."
This whole thing reminds me of Toronto in the 1980s when former mayor Art Eggleton refused to proclaim Gay Pride Day in Canada's largest city. Toronto's Gay Pride, which now brings millions into the city in tourism dollars every year, wasn't officially sanctioned by the city until Eggleton left office in 1991.
The same thing happened in London, Ontario in the 1990s where former mayor Dianne Haskett seemed to have difficulty leaving her religion out of her politics. Many Londoners believed her religious views against homosexuality influenced her decision to refuse to recognize Gay Pride in her city.
Richard Hudler, president of the Homophile Association of London, Ontario (HALO), filed an official complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1995 against Haskett and London City Council. In 1997, the Commission ruled that the City of London and Mayor Haskett had discriminated against HALO in the provision of a municipal service. Both the City of London and Haskett were fined $5,000.
Can a city or town refuse to proclaim a service (such as officially recognizing Gay Pride Day) because of the religious beliefs of council members?
Well, legal precedent clearly indicates a loud 'No'. This is Canada where public servants are supposed to respect the rights of all, not just those who share their religious views. We are a pluralistic society where respect for diversity is supposed to be paramount, or so I thought. I also thought most people, even the religious, recognized the importance of the division of church and state.
Apparently not in Truro, Nova Scotia. How shameful, indeed.
It's great to see that this ill-advised refusal by council has inspired a huge backlash in the community.
I'm sure this isn't the last we've heard of this story.