KELOWNA, British Columbia, August 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The City of Kelowna has once again proclaimed the last week of September as Protect Human Life Week, but has decided that, rather than allowing Kelowna Right to Life’s pro-life flag to fly above city hall during the week, the courtesy flag pole itself will be scrapped.
On August 20, Councilor Luke Stack put forth a motion to dismantle the courtesy flag program, and city council voted unanimously in favor.
“I just don’t think city hall should be used for flying promotional flags,” Stack told reporters after the vote Monday night.
“Moving beyond a proclamation to actually flying a group’s flag over city hall is a step further than I think is appropriate,” Stack said.
Controversy erupted last week when the city’s Director of Communications Tom Wilson rejected Kelowna Right to Life’s original flag design because it contained the phrase “celebrating life from conception until natural death.” Wilson said the flag was “advocating a point of view” and was not “reflecting the actual event.”
However, according to Kelowna Right to Life Society executive director Marlon Bartram, Wilson gave tacit approval for the flag if the wording was removed. A second design was submitted that showed a graphic of a child, a young adult and an elderly person, and the words pro-life in large letters.
In an e-mail to LifeSitenews Bartram explained that Wilson rejected their first request to fly the flag. But, “the only reason he gave in writing was that the flag did not reflect the actual events that were taking place during the week,” said Bartram. “Later, in a phone and email conversation with our President Henry Thalheimer, Wilson also added that the flag violated the policy that forbids it from presenting a religious, political, or ethical point of view.
“According to Mr. Thalheimer, Mr. Wilson said that if we remove the phrase ‘from conception to natural death’ the flag would be approved,” Bartram continued. “Thalheimer then gave me the green light to send out the news release announcing that our flag had been approved. Immediately, Mr. Wilson reacted and announced through the media that our flag request had not yet been formally approved.
Bartram said that it was at this point that the national media started to pay attention, leading to the city’s decision to jettison the courtesy flag program in its entirety.
The pro-life activist said that the city appears to have made the decision “they think will lead them to the calmest waters.”
“We believe that we should have been treated as equals to those who have had their flags flown in the past. Our flag should fly just like theirs did,” he said.
For his part, Wilson has defended his decision, telling media, “We don’t do things by verbal agreement.” The city councilor added that the only event flag to have flown during the two years that Kelowna has had the courtesy flag pole was a homosexual rainbow flag during “Pride Week.”
“In comparison to Mayor Gray’s endorsement of ‘Pride Week’ and his eagerness to get behind the sponsors’ efforts, his penchant for ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘respect for all persons’ apparently does not extend to the pro life community,” Bartram said. “There has been plenty of talk of tolerance this past week, but it is now evident that that tolerance does not extend to the pro-life community, at least not from Kelowna City Hall.”
Despite the setback, Kelowna Right to Life states that Protect Human Life Week will go ahead as planned.
Events include a Memorial Service for the Unborn, a Walk for Life fundraiser September 22 in Mission Creek Park, an exclusive screening of the new film October Baby on September 28 at Evangel Church on Gordon Drive at 7:00 pm, and the annual Life Chain to close out the week on September 30.
Kelowna Right to Life will also be distributing pro-life postcards to homes in the Kelowna area during the week.