Surrey RCMP raise Pride flag despite opposition and protesters
Dozens of opponents and supporters alike converged on the Surrey RCMP detachment as the force went ahead with its plan to raise the rainbow Pride flag in support of LGBTQ officers and members of the community.
The flag, which has been a lightning rod for controversy among conservative and anti-gay organizations, has flown above police headquarters and RCMP detachments across the country for years, but protestors seized on the Surrey RCMP's symbolic gesture Monday morning.
"The rainbow flag is a political symbol," said Culture Guard founder and protestor Kari Simpson. "We're saying here, today, 'enough is enough.'"
Simpson was flanked by dozens of like-minded people holding placards denouncing the rainbow flag and demanding only the Canadian flag be flown at the Surrey RCMP's headquarters on 57th Avenue.
When asked why protestors rallied around this particular flag raising now, Simpson claimed her supporters were taking a stand.
"The RCMP is probably the tipping point here," she said. "When an organization that's supposed to be politically neutral starts to give special rights and promotion of one person's political agenda, one group's political agenda, that's an overstepping of boundaries in Canada."
But Surrey RCMP's officer in charge insisted it wasn't a political statement, and the request to raise the symbol of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and two-spirited individuals came from officers within the Surrey detachment.
"Historically, with this particular community, there have been times where they have not felt welcome by police and it's our job as a police department to make sure that everyone feels welcome in coming here (to Surrey)," said Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald.
The flag will be taken down each evening for safekeeping.
His sentiments were echoed by Surrey Pride Society president Martin Rooney, who recalled Mounties taking rotating shifts to defend the first Surrey Pride event 20 years ago when there were fears white supremacists and gangs would target the community.
"I think 20 years after Pride started it's absolutely amazing with the relationship we've had that the RCMP," said Rooney. "It shows that (the RCMP is) unafraid to fly the flag and reach out to work with the LGBTQ2S community."
This year marks 50 years since the beginning of decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada and 20 years since the city of Surrey hosted its first Pride celebrations.