Arnprior council votes to fly Pride flag in June
Sophie Smith-Doré delivers a speech to Arnprior town council Monday, May 13, 2019, in support of raising the Pride Flag in the community. (Photo by Ashley St. Germain, courtesy of Sophie Smith-Doré)
Ted Raymond, Newstalk 580 CFRA
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2019 11:52AM EDT
The town of Arnprior will be holding a Pride Week this June, and will fly the rainbow flag in the downtown core.
The unanimous decision at Monday’s town council meeting came after a public campaign by the group PFLAG Renfrew County.
Sophie Smith-Doré became the public face of the campaign in Arnprior after being approached by a resident who had been trying to encourage the town to fly the flag, but who wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“I think she felt that because I was such a vocal advocate on our community Facebook wall, she thought I might be interested in running with the baton that she had started,” Smith-Doré said.
Smith-Doré said she noticed a lot of resistance to any mention of LGBTQ+ awareness on the local Facebook group “What’s Up Arnprior” when she first moved to the area and became a vocal advocate for the local LGBTQ+ community.
“I saw the need,” she said. “I’m a bisexual woman and, at the time, I was the only one in my family who was in that community and I found that they were just so poorly represented. Anytime anyone mentioned something about a flag or a parade, the response was very negative. It was heartbreaking.”
Smith-Doré coordinated with the PFLAG Renfrew County group who asked her to give a speech at the town council meeting Monday.
“When I wrote the speech, I originally took the approach where I explained why the flag was important,” she said. “The community members have said the flag and a parade and anything of that nature gave them that slice of visibility to carve out a tiny space to exist in this heteronormative community.”
But she turned her speech toward a broader concept, one of privilege, and the often invisible advantages it can grant.
“I, myself, am endowed with that privilege," she said. "I’m a bisexual woman, in a marriage with a man, and we have two children. When people see me walking down the street with my family they see a woman, married to a man, and I have a boy and a girl. I can function in society as a heterosexual person. I felt this was important to demonstrate because people who do stand against the LGBTQ+ community don’t have to answer questions about who they are or why they are that way because they’re the majority.”
Her speech included statistics about the harm facing LGBTQ+ youth, including greater chances of thinking about or attempting suicide.
Several supporters and allies came to the council meeting to show their solidarity with Smith-Doré and the community, which is something Smith-Doré said was very important.
“We needed council to see that yes, we are a small, conservative, blue-wave town but the LGBTQ+ community is here. We’re just not out there yet because it doesn’t appear to be a safe space.”
Smith-Doré says the flag-raising, and the week accompanying it, will be very important for creating that safe space in Arnprior. She says she understands some people may still be resistant to the idea, but she wants them to know the goal is to create a positive dialog.
“I didn’t understand the transgender community,” she said, as an example, “but I listened, and I heard, and I asked questions. I think that’s the big takeaway. The more that I listened and the more questions I asked, the more information I got and the more stories I heard. You can't hear and understand if you keep talking.
“Equality is not a pie. We’re not asking for anything from anyone else except for them to step maybe two steps to the right so we can squeeze in and stand with them. We’re not asking them to change the way that they behave, we’re just asking for the space to have that same privilege.”
The flag will be raised June 7 and will fly until June 14.
Smith-Doré says they’re still working on plans for the week, but they definitely plan to have a celebration when the flag is raised.
“We’re going to make it a celebration because this is a pretty big thing for this tiny, little, conservative town.”