An Aldergrove woman has her Pride flag back after the Township of Langley took it down Friday, but she’s concerned about the complaint from a neighbour that caused officials to remove it in the first place.
Lisa Ebenal said she first hung a rainbow-coloured flag over a sign in front of her home last week to celebrate Pride month and support the LGBTQ2 community, but it was quickly stolen.
She then hung a second flag on Thursday afternoon, but the next day it was gone again.
“Someone called me and said, ‘Your flag is missing,’ and they had seen a Township of Langley truck in the area around that time,” Ebenal recalled. “I said, ‘No, they wouldn’t have taken it.’ I just thought someone had stolen it again.”
But the caller reached out to the township for answers. After first denying it, a staff member later acknowledged it had been taken down by them.
“When I got home from work, someone from the township showed up after hours and brought me the flag, handed it to me, apologized and said it was a mistake,” she said.
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Ebenal said she was then told a neighbour had made a complaint and asked for the flag to be taken down, but wasn’t told who it was. Beyond the complaint, she’s upset the township acted so quickly.
“They didn’t call me beforehand, they didn’t come to my door to see if I was home, they didn’t leave a note,” she said. “They just took it down.”
In a statement, the township said they were led to believe the flag was covering a city-owned sign that marks the entrance to the Bertrand Creek community and sits on Ebenal’s property.
“As signs are not normally placed on private property, a crew responded assuming that the sign was on public property and removed the flag as per standard practice,” the statement said.
“The Township regrets the distress our confusion may have caused to the residents and neighbors and going forward will remind crews to check property locations of signs prior to taking action.”
Ebenal said the complaint itself is also disturbing to her, and says that to her, the Pride flag represents the coming together of all people in harmony and supporting equal rights.
“To have someone object to that was offensive and really surprising because I just didn’t know people still thought like that,” she said. “I respect other points of view, but I expect them to respect mine as well.”
While she didn’t make the complaint, neighbour Cheryle Restiaux said she doesn’t agree with the Pride flag, especially because of where it was placed at the front of the community.
“We don’t all have those same views, and I don’t want that to represent me or my thoughts on the rainbow sign,” she said.
“It represents the gay community as man with man or woman with woman. I don’t believe that’s right. I know it’s not right. It should be man and woman [who] should be married, the opposite sex. Not the same sex.”
Ebenal is hopeful her Pride flag will now be allowed to hang for as long as she wishes, and that bylaw officers are trained to think twice about similar complaints.
A rising trend
It’s not the only instance of a Pride flag being targeted in the Lower Mainland this week: the rainbow flag hanging above Ladner United Church was defaced on Saturday for the second time in nearly two weeks.
David C. Jones, who is running to be the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Centre in the upcoming federal election, said he’s concerned by the rise of anti-LGBTQ2 rhetoric he’s seeing across Canada.
“We’re seeing a rise of hatred and intolerance that’s being stoked by someone, somehow, and that’s not Canada,” he said. “We need to start speaking back against this immediately.
“Hatred should not be allowed to grow and fester in Canada. That’s not who we are.”
Jones, who is a member of the LGBTQ2 community, said the rainbow flag is a symbol of that community coming together as a unified force in the face of intolerance.
He said more work needs to be done to educate people about recognizing the community isn’t against anything or anyone.
“The flag doesn’t speak out against anybody,” he said. “It is saying, ‘We are included, we are part of Canada, and we are here.’ For people to find that offensive that we are here, or to try and criminalize or demonize us, is wrong and will not be tolerated.”
—With files from Paul Johnson