June 24, 2019 4:40 pm
Updated: June 24, 2019 5:13 pm

Surrey RCMP raise Pride flag for first time ever to cheers and jeers

WATCH: Surrey RCMP raise rainbow flag in support of Pride month

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For the first time ever, the Pride flag is hanging at the Surrey RCMP.

Members of the Surrey RCMP detachment raised the flag Monday to mark Pride month, while dozens of angry protesters and LGBTQ2 supporters gathered outside.

Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, said police acknowledged protesters and recognized it was important to have all voices heard on the matter. But he said raising the flag was about the RCMP’s commitment to “embrace inclusivity and diversity in the RCMP.”

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Martin Rooney, founder and president of Surrey Pride, lauded the force for raising the flag, which he said was done at the request of officers within the detachment.

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He said police have had a good relationship with the LGBTQ2 community since the city’s inaugural Pride event 20 years ago when officers acted on reports of a planned attack on the event.

“They rotated their officers throughout the day and right until two or three o’clock in the morning to make sure nothing happened, that all of us were safe and our volunteers got out of the venue really safely, so I really, really appreciate the relationships Surrey Pride has had with the RCMP.”

The ceremony was met by a vocal crowd of protesters, led by Kari Simpson with the group Culture Guard, who argued that the Pride flag is a divisive political and ideological symbol that has no place on a government building.

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“What we are seeing across Canada is special rights being given to one particular group and a group that obviously doesn’t want to be respectful of other groups. So we’re saying here enough is enough, the RCMP is probably the tipping point here,” she said.

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“When an organization that is supposed to be politically neutral starts to give special rights in promotion of one person’s political agenda, one group’s political agenda, that’s an overstepping of boundaries in Canada.”

Simpson has been an active opponent of the province’s SOGI-123 resource package, which is designed to help teachers and school administrators reduce discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in their curriculum and facilities.

READ MORE: B.C. woman’s Pride flag stolen for third time in less than a month

Simpson said she spoke for the “silent majority” who oppose the current “era of LGBT extremism,” under which “men can use women’s washrooms now if they use wigs,” a reference to the rights of transgender women to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity.

Discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity is expressly prohibited under Canadian federal law and the B.C. human rights code.

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Protester Mary McNichols said she was there because of the SOGI-123 school program, which she said was curtailing parents’ rights.

“They’re introducing a program introducing material that’s really inappropriate for children. They’re sexualizing children at too young an age,” she argued.

READ MORE: B.C. neighbourhood draped in rainbows after city ‘accidentally’ removes Pride flag

But Brad Dirks, the parent of a transgender teen, said Simpson and McNichols were promoting “misinformation and lies.”

“It’s once a year [at Pride] that we get to show that there is a lot of work to still be done,” he said.

“There is lots of hate and there is a big movement here that’s trying to shame kids like mine and families like ours and it’s not right.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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