Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee is recommending that the Pride, trans and Indigenous flags fly at city hall this year — two years after it recommended against the flags being raised.
This year’s decision follows a rocky relationship between the city and its LGBTQ2 community after an attack on the Pride Festival in 2019, which saw both Hamilton police and city officials criticized for their response to the violence.
Even before that incident, the advisory committee had been recommending the city not raise the flags, citing multiple concerns about the city’s relationship with its marginalized residents.
Cameron Kroetsch, chair of the advisory committee, said they consulted with Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community with a survey to get a sense of how people felt about the city’s recognition of Pride month.
“Those survey results were largely saying, ‘Yeah, we’re in favour of having this happen, we want to see there be some recognition, we want the LGBTQ advisory committee to be part of that process in terms of the city,'” Kroetsch said during Thursday’s audit, finance and administration (AFA) committee meeting.
The survey results were shared and discussed during Tuesday’s LGBTQ2 advisory committee meeting.
Of the respondents, 80.4 per cent said the City of Hamilton should plan an annual event to recognize Pride month, but only 68.1 per cent thought the event should include a flag-raising ceremony.
The survey found that 20.6 per cent of respondents were unsure, while 11.3 per cent were against the city raising the flags.
Several people who voted no explained in written responses that they felt the flag-raising was a “performative” gesture on the city’s behalf.
“(The) City of Hamilton as a corporation and a system in power does a poor job supporting marginalized groups in general, and the queer community in particular,” wrote one person. “This feels like an unearned virtue signal without actual support or action behind it. Optics.”
Others who responded acknowledged issues between the community and the city, but said the flag-raising holds symbolic importance and helps increase visibility.
“Regardless of how well the city manages to handle the issues of our community, that flag is an important symbol to the young and struggling people who live here,” another respondent wrote. “I grew up in a city without a flag, and it’s an important recognition of belonging.”
Several responses also referenced the Halton Catholic District School Board’s decision not to fly the Pride flag, which Kroetsch also cited while speaking to the city’s AFA committee.
“What we’ve heard from those voices of young people, especially, was that visibility is important to them and they want to see these symbols displayed. And so in the context of that as well, we’re saying this important moment to respond to a larger conversation and to ensure that people feel like they’re being seen and feel like they’re welcome and safe.”
He added that the recommendation doesn’t mean that the issues between the city and the LGBTQ2 community have been resolved, adding that there is still work that needs to be done to mend those relationships.
While the committee’s recommendation was approved by the AFA committee, city council will ultimately decide during next week’s meeting what will happen with the flags at city hall.