A new community flagpole in West Lincoln is about more than just flags — it's about building a sense of community.
“It’s the appropriate space, I think, for the flying of flags that are important to people in our community,” said Coun. Cheryl Ganaan at the flagpole's debut June 1, when the township officially raised the Pride Flag in conjunction with Pride Niagara to mark Pride Month.
A video posted to Coun. William Reilly's Twitter shows Ganaan speaking to a small crowd outside the West Lincoln Arena and Community Centre, about the importance of the Pride flag, before raising it on the flagpole. The flag was lowered to half mast moments later to recognize the remains of 215 Indigenous children found in a mass grave outside a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
The new flagpole comes as a resolution from a West Lincoln council meeting from last November. In an interview with Niagara This Week, Ganaan said “when we put last year's flag policy together, then it seemed appropriate to make that third flagpole that was at the new community centre dedicated to community flag raising.”
She said this was because the centre was a frequently visited place by many in the community, for reasons ranging from sports to getting COVID-19 vaccines and other reasons, so the visibility of a community flagpole was vital.
The flagpole is accessible to different members of the community through the application process. According to Ganaan, Pride Niagara went through that process and was selected to have the Pride flag raised June 1. Enzo DeDivitiis, chair of Pride Niagara, was in attendance at the flag-raising ceremony.
In June 2020, controversial comments were made by West Lincoln Mayor Dave Bylsma about the identity politics associated with flying the Pride flag during a radio interview. Given his initial refusal to do so, West Lincoln did not raise the flag last year until mid-June when a special meeting was called to do so. In this meeting the mayor still voted against raising the flag, but the majority council voted in favour.
Ganaan said the actions of the mayor and his comments were “most embarrassing.”
“The majority of council wants to see a community that really is looking to be equitable, and diversified and unified in terms of respecting the rights of others. And so, there was no discussion this year. The flag was just absolutely going up this year,” Ganaan said.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News