Nelson city council has re-written its banner policy in response to a recent social media controversy over an anti-abortion message on the banner that recently hung across 300-block of Baker Street.
The banner stated, “Respect human life from conception to a natural death.”
The new policy states that the purpose of the banner is “to advertise events or activities taking place within the city … provided the event is taking place locally and there is local participation by the supporting group, club, or organization and the event has a community wide focus and is not discriminatory.”
Council’s previous policy simply stated that the purpose was to advertise community-focused events or activities taking place in the city with the participation of local people.
Mayor Deb Kozak said the banner is no place for opinions because it’s in the public realm.
The new policy goes on to state that “The intention of the banner program is to help promote community occasions or events of a cultural, social, environmental or recreational nature and shall not be used to make a statement of any kind. Occasions, events or announcements shall be specific happenings within the community. These events will not be commercially oriented.”
In a letter to the Star on November 24, Rick Rodman, the president of the Nelson Right to Life Society, stated that his group’s controversial banner in fact was connected to an event: Respect Human Life Week.
At Monday’s council meeting, Councillor Valerie Warmington wondered if the new policy means the event has to be named.
“Yes,” said city manager Kevin Cormack.
Councillor Michael Dailly asked if Respect for Human Life Week would be considered an event, under the new policy.
Cormack said it would.
On the question of whether the banner could advertise a pro life walk, Councillor Anna Purcell said, “We don’t want council to be the arbiters of morality. We will never have agreement in common as to whether council is pro-life or not.”
The new policy goes on to say that the banner must be in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by being non-derogatory with regard to specific groups of people and must not discriminate with regard to race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin , creed, religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital, or family status.
The new policy, like the previous one, provides for a $100 application fee to hang a banner and outlines the application procedure.
Council approved the new policy with Dailly opposed and Councillor Janice Morrison absent.