Mayor Greg Dionne is looking to end the city’s “courtesy flagpole” policy, a decision which stems in part from a lawsuit alleging a violation of freedom of expression,
Dionne brought forward a motion at city council’s latest meeting to strip and amend several sections from the city’s Flag Protocol Policy, including sections 6.02b, 6.04a and c, 6.05 and 6.07. The sections in question all relate to guest flags flown in Memorial Square outside of city hall.
A lawsuit was brought forward by the Prince Albert Right to Life Association in November of 2017 seeking to have the court overturn the city’s decision to ban the group's controversial anti-abortion flag from flying on the guest pole. Annual past raisings of the flag have generated protests and made international news headlines, with many criticizing the city for allowing the flag to fly. The anti-abortion group's flag depicts a smiling cartoon fetus, accompanied by the slogan “please let me live.”
Dionne attempted to have his motion debated Monday, but it wasn’t on the agenda and failed to gain leave as a two-thirds majority was needed. The mayor said he did not expect to garner sufficient backing that night, but wanted to bring the issue forward nonetheless. The matter will come back before council at the end of May.
Defending his decision on the matter, Dionne said the city shouldn’t use tax dollars defending a free service when it would be easier to simply stop flying unofficial flags.
“It is just as easy to stop the practice, and that is what I will be bringing forward," Dionne said. "We stop the practice, and that will end the controversy."
After some research, the mayor said he concluded that Prince Albert was one of the few communities that still offered a courtesy flag pole.
“Even though I believe we are in our right to fly any flag we decide is appropriate, we do have some that are not appropriate,” Dionne added.
The chance to fly on the courtesy flag pole is offered to “charitable or non-profit organization to help increase public awareness of their programs and activities” or organizations that have “achieved national or international distinction or made a significant contribution to the community” or helped “enhance the City of Prince Albert in a positive manner.”
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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