A flag fusing both the Canadian and Pride flags was removed from Yellowknife’s city hall last week and replaced with the internationally recognized rainbow flag after a councillor complained that it “bastardized” the national symbol.
City councillor Niels Konge sparked an online debate last week after complaining on his official Facebook page that the flag, featuring a maple leaf between bands of rainbow stripes, was “completely disrespectful to ALL Canadians” and did not follow proper flag etiquette.
“Council was never consulted. I support a pride flag. Not a bastardized Canadian flag. My issue is the flag, not the tromping of people’s human rights,” he posted online.
Konge’s comments offended members of Yellowknife’s LGBTQ community, including NWT Pride director Iman Kassam, who said the Canadianized flag – which is flown each year at city hall during the Pride festival – is flown at similar events across the country every year.
“It is not disrespectful at all. In my opinion it shows unity, solidarity, and pride for all Canadians,” Kassam said. “The LGBTQ+ rainbow doesn’t degrade, lower in worth or value, corrupt, brutalize, violate or demoralize the Canadian flag.”
Despite the difference of opinion, Kassam delivered a regular rainbow flag to city hall on Wednesday, which Mayor Mark Heyck swapped for the one that was creating controversy.
“In order to not detract from the real issues at hand – respect for diversity, human rights and equality around the world – we will be replacing the flag that’s currently flying at City Hall with the more typical Pride flag tomorrow morning,” he announced Wednesday afternoon. “Thanks to NWT Pride for providing these flags. The City of Yellowknife is proud to support the rights of the LGBTQ community here and abroad.”
Heyck told The Journal the flag would continue to fly for the duration of the Winter Olympics in solidarity with LGBTQ athletes competing in Sochi, Russia, where legislation outlaws public displays of homosexuality.