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Lethbridge city council candidate calls Pride committee ‘not inclusive’ after not inviting him to speak at event

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge city council candidate calls Pride committee ‘not inclusive’ after not inviting him to speak at event' Lethbridge city council candidate calls Pride committee ‘not inclusive’ after not inviting him to speak at event
WATCH ABOVE: A candidate for Lethbridge city council is defending a video he posted on Facebook this week about a Pride ceremony at city hall earlier this week. Ben Christensen, who is openly gay, said he feels disrespected and excluded by organizers who did not invite him to speak at the flag-raising ceremony. Quinn Campbell reports. – Jun 17, 2021

In a video posted to Facebook, Ben Christensen, who is running for a seat on Lethbridge city council, said he was excluded from a flag-raising event at city hall involving the Lethbridge Pride Fest committee.

“I see that the mayor of our city got an invitation to speak, to address members of our LGBT community. Where was my invitation?” he asks in the video.

Christensen is not a member of the Lethbridge Pride committee, but said as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, he should have been given the chance to speak at the recent flag-raising event.

Read more: From Whoop-Up Days to Pride Fest: What southern Alberta events are happening this summer

“It’s a common courtesy for events to take place in our city, to invite public dignitaries — or people who are looking to become public dignitaries — to have a voice at those events and have a presence in our community, and I don’t feel that that was respected,” Christensen said.

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Lethbridge Pride chair Lane Sterr said it is actually not common practice to invite city council candidates to speak at the event.

“The Pride flag-raising is not a political event to gain favourability for people who are running for council,” Sterr said. “Yes, we have invited the mayor — the mayor has always participated and been at our Pride events.”

He added if one candidate is invited to speak, then all candidates would need to be given the chance and that would take away from the event itself.

Christensen said he did not ask organizers to speak at the event beforehand but feels the committee should have extended the invitation to show true inclusion. He said in the past, people running for provincial seats have been allowed to speak at the event, like past Lethbridge Pride chair Devon Hargreaves.

“For me to be excluded from a public event where other past candidates have been invited, especially where the mayor was also invited to that event, to me, I felt that was extremely exclusionary on their part,” Christensen said.

Sterr said the flag-raising event was scaled back this year and streamed online due to current COVID-19 restrictions. People were encouraged to watch from home.

‘I think that Lethbridge Pride Fest is always striving to do our best to represent our queer community, and when I say that, I mean everyone,” Sterr said.

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“I want everyone to know that we are one community and I want to make sure their is space for everyone.”

Read more: ‘A symbol of equality and support’: Lethbridge Crosswalks painted ahead of Pride Fest

In the video, Christensen says if elected, he will still advocate for Pride events, but not support funding the Pride Fest event.

“I will make it known to the heart of the city and to Lethbridge city council, that if I am elected, that I oppose the funding for this event until such time as the members of the committee for the Lethbridge Pride committee get themselves in check,” he said.

Sterr said he found the candidate’s comments on denying the Pride committee funding if elected disheartening.

“Just to not be personally invited or invited to speak at this event, and to in turn threaten to halt our funding that we receive from the city is just kind of — it’s very disheartening and discouraging.”

Christensen said since posting the video he has received many negative, hateful and threatening comments. He said such comments do not highlight what Pride stands for.

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