Norwich’s LGBTQ+ rift deepens with politician’s proposed flag ban

Local politicians in a small Southwestern Ontario community are set to consider banning all flags, except those representing the official government, amid past clashes over Pride flags that represent support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Politicians in Norwich are set to consider banning all flags, except those representing the official government, amid past clashes over Pride flags that represent support for the LGBTQ+ community.

The motion has been introduced by Norwich Township Coun. John Scholten and is designed, per its written description, to restore “peace, harmony and safety in our community.”

His motions calls for “only the three official government flags (federal, provincial, and municipal) be flown on any township property.”

Councilors will vote on the motion April 25.

A second motion introduced by Coun. Alisha Stubbs will ask council to proclaim June as Pride Month in the community, located about 20 kilometers southeast of Woodstock. “While progress has been made, further recognition, awareness and education related to the 2SLGBTQ+ community is needed to prevent discrimination and promote inclusivity,” her motion reads.

The community has drawn scrutiny after several Pride flags were either stolen or desecrated several times.

Between May 20 and 24, 2022, police investigated the theft and vandalism of rainbow flags from Stover Street in Norwich. Surveillance footage showed three males wearing orange safety gear were involved in the thefts, police said.

  1. One of several rainbow Pride flags that lined the main street in Norwich in June.  The flags were replaced after several were stolen or vandalized in late May.  (Calvi Leon/The London Free Press)

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  2. A Progress Pride banner hangs outside a Home Hardware on Stover Street last June, in Norwich, a rural community east of London.  The banner is one of two that were reinstalled after several were stolen in May 2022. (Calvi Leon/The London Free Press)

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Tillsonburg resident Jake Dey was charged with theft under $5,000 after several Pride flags were stolen or vandalized in the community. Last June, he also appeared as a citizen at a council meeting and repeatedly cited the Bible and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in criticism of LGBTQ+ rights.

He drew comparisons between Pride and the Nazis in discussing what he said is a social movement, eventually drawing an apology from then Norwich Mayor Larry Martin. Dey spoke for nearly 30 minutes about Pride banners “to educate council” and the public about the messages they portray and, as he described it in a letter to politicians, “the experiences this triggered for myself and family.”

In December, the criminal charges against Dey were dropped.

“I’m absolutely disgusted and horrified. This sends a very, very scary and dangerous message for our community,” Tami Murray, president of the Oxford County Pride Committee, said at the time. “I think that it sends a message for the 2SLGBTQIA-plus community that they are not safe in Oxford County and, specifically, in Norwich. . . . Apparently hate crime is OK in Oxford County.”

Calls to Stubbs and Scholten were not immediately returned on Friday.

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