The Peace River Regional District discussed a request this week from Fondation Émergence, a Quebec-based non-profit organization asking local municipalities to recognize May 17 as the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Directors voted in favour of issuing a statement to recognize the day but not the organization and agreed the request would make more sense if it was coming from local groups rather than the far-flung province of Quebec.
Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says while the PRRD should denounce racism and bigotry, he prefers to see such requests from local residents.
“Our policy is that we would only support a proclamation if there’s a local community group that comes to us for that support. In this issue, I think there’s an opportunity for us, as the regional district, to at least demonstrate that support through our social media,” he said.
Chair Brad Sperling says the PRRD is already in the habit of posting media releases about anti-bullying and anti-racism, so a general posting would be acceptable.
Area B Director Karen Goodings said the request doesn’t align with board policy and asked staff for clarification on where proclamation requests fit within the PRRD.
“It doesn’t matter whether it would be the month of May for MS or whatever, we do not recognize any of that, and so I think this would fall under that policy – if it is in fact, still in place,” said Goodings.
PRRD CAO Shawn Dahlen says the policy was repealed in 2020 after no proclamation requests came forward over a nine-year period. He said staff is willing to work on a new policy to allow for such requests.
“We’d be happy to take direction back to staff to be able to bring forward a policy that actually says if people were in front of the board to present that it would be considered,” said Dahlen.
Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille says the Peace region is for all people no matter what policies or bylaws are in place.
“Everybody is welcome in our house, and we should not push people because of documents, and policies, and bylaws, and such, in that the First Nations two-spirited person that we are talking about, belongs to all of us, and we all know somebody that way,” he said. “In the culture of the First Nations, they belong as much as anybody else.”
Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said she had similar thoughts as Goodings, but felt the request would make more sense if a local organization was bringing it to municipal councils rather than the regional district.
“We would proclaim a day if it’s a local organization that has brought it forward for us to consider,” she said. “So while this is an important discussion to have, this refers a lot to the province of Quebec, and maybe they don’t realize that our regional local government is a little different in that sense.”
Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand said the issue warrants further discussion, and also wanted to keep the focus local.
“We are talking about more inclusiveness later this afternoon with our cultural training, and I think this certainly falls under this realm as well. This is a group of people that have continuously been discriminated against,” he said.