Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne admits he was a bit caught off guard by the request of a small group of residents to take down an anti-abortion flag at city hall.
The flag, which features a cartoon fetus and the words “please let me live” drew protesters to city hall Thursday. There was also a petition to have the flag removed.
Dionne said the flag has been raised at city hall for each of the past seven years and until now, there was no comment.
The flag “has nothing to do with whether we agree with it or not, we believe in freedom of speech because we are Canadians. We believe people have the right to their own opinion,” Dionne said.
Despite the backlash, Dionne said he has had a lot of public support as well.
“In lots of times in situations like this you only get the naysayers, you don’t get the people that say ‘hey you guys are making an issue out of nothing’. I even had a university professor phone me and say ‘thank you for standing up for free speech.'”
Some in the community, including Coun. Lee Atkinson, have said city council should have voted on whether the flag should have been raised.
A spokesperson for city hall informed paNOW that the group responsible for the flag acquired the required permits, and city council voted on the flag when the original application was made seven years ago.
It is not the practice of city council to vote on the same permit application each year.
Dionne said the flag will stay up over the weekend, as set out in the permit and then a new flag will go up next week. He added there is no planned discussion about the flag during Monday’s city council meeting.
“We’ve never denied a flag. I have denied use of memorial square and that’s because the applicant was a criminal organization, they were a biker gang,” Dionne said.
Dionne said he hopes people can understand that the decision to raise the flag was about freedom of speech and it is not the practice of city hall or city council to pick sides.