A day after being forced to remove a controversial “straight pride” flag amid public backlash, the mayor of a New Brunswick village says the goal was “never to polarize, but to pull people together.”
Village of Chipman mayor Carson Atkinson says council unanimously allowed the Pride flag to fly in June, and felt they should do the same for a straight pride flag.
Atkinson said a formal apology will not be issued.
“Well, there’s not so much an apology,” he said. “It’s an apology for all of the people that are tied up in this, and that have taken exception on both sides of the issue.”
Council had the flag taken down Monday, less than 24 hours after it was raised, after it turned into a ”polarizing issue,” according to Atkinson.
WATCH: Small New Brunswick village removes ‘straight pride’ flag after backlash
River of Pride, an LGBTQ+ group, says increased education is needed about the issues impacting that population.
“We do see this as dangerous; we do see this as hateful. Maybe not everybody sees it that way, and that’s why we want to have a discussion about it,” says Charles MacDougall, project coordinator of River of Pride.
“But there has been damage that has been done, and a lot of people may feel ashamed of what’s happened in their municipality or even in this province.”
Mayor Atkinson says the controversy from the straight pride flag has compromised council’s message of an open, welcoming community.
MacDougall says their group has been in contact with the Village of Chipman, the Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick, as well as other groups in efforts to create dialogue to prevent a similar thing from happening in the future.
“When we raise a Pride flag, it is to show that we are allowed to exist without repercussion. It is to show that we are allowed to be ourselves,” said MacDougall. “The straight pride flag has come as a response to that. Straight people have not needed to fight for their existence; they’ve never been discriminated against or oppressed for the reason that they were straight.”
Atkinson says when the topic was discussed at an August council meeting, the question was asked whether the flag could promote hate or cause division within the community. But the feeling was that it wouldn’t and the motion passed unanimously.
He says no hate or intimidation was intended, but admitted they will need to acknowledge other representation in the future.
“Council will have to listen more carefully to other groups,” says Atkinson. “Although, no other groups were available at the time, or spoke about it one way or the other.”