Baker banners are now banned, and community flags in front of city hall are sort of allowed.
At its Sept. 3 meeting, Nelson council revisited this issue after discussing it in May.
When council rescinded its policy on flags and banners in May, many people were left with the impression that flags at city hall and banners on Baker were now banned, but in fact it meant the city was simply left without a policy on them.
Then, in the absence of a policy and without a discussion at the council table, a banner was hung and a flag was flown during Pride week this month.
City staff has now proposed that the ban be added to the city’s proclamation policy, which forbids council proclaiming special days or weeks for groups or causes.
Councillor Brittny Anderson objected and proposed that the city continue to allow flags and banners.
“We see how important Pride is, how important it is for us to put the flags up,” Anderson said. “We can find a creative solution for these things.”
She suggested that the city continue to allow banners on Baker and flags at city hall, but that requests from groups should come directly to council for a decision on the merits of the request, not decided by staff based on a written policy.
“Otherwise we will never see the Pride or Trans or Metis flag again,” she said.
After considerable debate and discussion, council decided to add banners but not flags to the existing proclamation policy, effectively banning banners on Baker. The rationale was that, so far, banner applications have been numerous and sometimes controversial, while flag applications have been relatively few and not contentious.
Now, if a group wants to raise a special flag in front of city hall for an event, there is no policy, and they will have to apply directly to council. But no applications will be taken for Baker Street banners.
Councillor Janice Morrison voted against this, saying it was a half measure that would lead to more time-consuming discussions at the council table in the future.