A controversial bylaw that banned Pride flags and all other non-government flags has been reversed in the small town of Norwich in Ontario, Canada.
The ban, which was voted through by Norwich’s town council last April, banned all non-government flags from being flown from town-owned property.
It was originally introduced by Councillor John Scholten, who suggested that flying flags that represented a specific group or ideology would “only divide rather than unite.”
A controversial Pride flag ban has been reversed in the town of Norwich in Ontario, Canada. (Getty)
The ban was especially disheartening for residents and LGBTQ+ activists who had campaigned for their council to protect and defend Pride flags after a number of flags were stolen and vandalised.
LGBTQ+ residents had told CBC News at the time that they believed the ban was designed with the intention of removing Pride flags specifically, in order to combat vandalism incidents.
The ban had raised tensions so much that it even prompted one councillor, Alisha Stubbs, to resign in protest.
However this week, after months of division within the community, the town council voted to reverse the ban.
As part of the reversal, the township’s council has decided to install a “community flagpole” that will fly flags to represent various causes and groups at the request of residents.
As well as the Pride flag, other flags that have been approved by the council include Remembrance Day flags, Every Child Matters flags, Black History Month flags, the United Nations Flag, and flags belonging to service clubs and minor sports organisations.
Of the decision, Councillor Lynne DePlancke told CBC News: “This is definitely a step in the right direction for our community.”
Meanwhile, former councillor Alisha Stubbs was reluctant to celebrate the ban reversal.
The ban banned all non-government flags from being flown from town-owned property, but LGBTQ+ residents believed it was designed to remove Pride flags specifically. (Getty)
“The reality of ongoing hate within the Norwich community cannot be ignored, and while it is heartening to witness the dedication of those who strive to address this issue, I also feel hesitant to be too joyous,” Stubbs told Global News Canada.
“The community – and specific, targeted individuals – have gone through disgusting, awful, and dangerous situations as the result of hate.
“Each community member plays a role in fostering a community free from the shackles of hatred, and important ongoing actions will need to happen far beyond flying the flag.”
She did acknowledge that Councillors DePlancke and Shawn Gear had displayed “unwavering persistence” in trying to get the controversial ban removed. As did the local LGBTQ+ advocacy group Oxford County Pride.
“Oxford Pride, along with countless individuals in the Norwich community deserve a lot of praise, love, and acknowledgement,” said Stubbs.
“I hope their example inspires us all to stand united against hate and work towards a brighter, more inclusive future for whatever community we are a part of.”
President of Oxford County Pride Tami Murray said that the original ban “felt like it was attached to discriminatory actions.”
Of the reversal, she added: “A lot of people have realized that all we’re trying to do is accept everyone in our community.
“Diversity, inclusiveness and equality for all is really what we should all stand for.”