Coquitlam mayor promises ‘wholehearted support’ to fly Pride flag in Coquitlam

Coquitlam council didn’t make a decision Monday, but they did make a promise.

After a delegation of Dr. Charles Best Secondary students asked the city to hoist the Pride flag and host a Pride event, Mayor Richard Stewart pledged “wholehearted support” during Monday’s council-in-committee meeting.

The students sounded a blast of music and handed out mini Pride flags to city councillors before launching into a speech that underscored the importance of Coquitlam promoting Pride. Accompanied by teacher Megan Leslie, the Gay-Straight-Alliance students did not share their names.

“Pride is more than a flag. It is a sense of community and belonging. The outward showing of support is essential in a time where online rhetoric is transforming into hate-fueled protests in real life,” one of the students told council.

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Citing Pride in PoCo as an example, the students beseeched the city to host a Pride event in Coquitlam this summer, explaining they couldn’t organize the event themselves.

“It is wholly inappropriate to delegate something this important to teenagers. We do not have the experience or knowledge needed to navigate the permit process, vendor management, security and co-ordinating with the RCMP,” one student explained. “In the absence of a Pride society in the Tri-Cities, we need the city to step up.”

There is a strong appetite for a Pride event in the city, a student affirmed.

“The showing of community support for Drag Queen Storytime . . . shows that citizens are craving an opportunity to celebrate Pride.”

The request arose in part from a need to feel a sense of belonging in the city, a student explained.

“We came of age during the pandemic, a time when Pride was canceled for years. As a result, queer youth have been unable to see queer elders, queer families, or a queer friendly city.”

The request elicited words of encouragement from council.

“You had us at hello,” Stewart said. “You’ll see from council wholehearted support.”

While Coun. Trish Mandewo praised the students, she was critical of the circumstances that led to their appearance in council chambers on Monday.

“I see this as a failure,” she said, noting her own work creating inclusive spaces. “We should be moving the needle faster to where you don’t have to be coming before us.”

Mandewo thanked the students for their courage.

“Can you just imagine if all of you were scared to come forward?”

Council doesn’t typically vote on issues raised by a delegation. However, Coun. Dennis Marsden asked city staff to report back with options for hosting a Pride event.

Following the meeting, the city announced plans to look at options for holding a Pride event, as well as support for flying the Pride flag at city hall in June.

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