Nelson ends banner dispute by deciding not to hang any from non-profits

After years of controversy over which banners should be allowed to hang over Baker Street in downtown Nelson, city council has decided to repeal its community flag and banner policy and get rid of hanging banners from non-profit groups altogether.

Things came to a head after Coun. Brittny Anderson voiced concerns to council in March, that a banner the Right To Life group puts up with an anti-abortion message, violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The West Kootenay city's council then decided to seek a legal opinion, and at the beginning of May, it held an in-camera meeting where it decided to stop accepting all future banner and flag applications. 

"After a long drawn out conversation, it was decided that the easiest way out of this mess was to have no banners," said Nelson's mayor, John Dooley. 

"We had legal opinions of what could and what couldn't be hung out there on the street and we were within that framework, but council decided it was better just to forget about the banner and flag policy."

The only banners that will now hang over the city's main street will be ones that promote city events and initiatives.

'Pretty disappointed,' says pride co-ordinator

Stephanie Meyers, one of the co-ordinators of Kootenay Pride, learned about council's decision last week, which was also the same week that marked Canada's 50th anniversary of partially decriminalizing homosexuality, she told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"We actually have the pride and trans flags flying at city hall ... So the same week that that happened, we got the news that [it's] probably the last time,"  said Meyers. 

Submitted by Stephanie Meyer

"I'm pretty disappointed in the decision of mayor and council and staff to ban the banner. It was a big fight for Kootenay Pride to get the banner across Baker Street when it happened."

The pride organization faced a lot of opposition from some far-right Christians in the city when they first started 24 years ago, she said.

"But we have the support of the community, and it went up and we're one of the longest standing pride organizations in the province," said Meyers.

Meanings behind banners

Meyers believes The Right to Life group's banner is different from theirs and the others that usually go up, because it represents an opinion as opposed to promoting an event. 

"As far as I'm concerned, you're attacking women's reproductive rights with that banner and that's their opinion. It's not anything else, but someone's opinion, a group's opinion and I don't think it needs to be up above Baker Street, because there's a lot of pushback when that goes up," she said.

Seeing the pride banner means a lot to Meyers and the pride organization. 

"The thought that we'll be running the parade Labour Day weekend, as we have for so many years, without the banner across Baker Street, makes me sad."