Pro-life flag flying at City Hall causes uproar
A pro-life flag raised at City Hall provoked a swift backlash on Thursday, prompting its removal and leading the mayor to call for a review of the city’s flag-raising policy.
The flag for the March for Life, an annual event on Parliament Hill, was raised Thursday morning at city hall. The flag's presence prompted outrage on Twitter, with people saying it promotes limiting a woman's right to choose.
Early Thursday afternoon, seven city councillors released a joint statement demanding the flag be taken down.
“We…are outraged that a flag representing a personal conviction to restrict a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion is flying on the grounds of City Hall for the first time in the City’s History,” the statement read.
Shortly afterwards, Mayor Jim Watson said has asked the city clerk’s office for a review of the proclamations and flag policy within a month.
Around 3 p.m., the flag was taken down.
Watson told reporters Thursday afternoon that the city's flag-raising policy wasn't followed in this instance; it has to be a group asking for a flag, and in this case it was an individual.
"Flags going up at city hall are supposed to be a unifying force," he said. "They're not supposed to be divisive."
Watson said he found out about the flag for the first time Wednesday night, and was "not very happy about it."
"The last thing we need is an abortion debate at city hall, quite frankly."
In a memo to council on Thursday, city solicitor Rick O’Connor apologized that the flag was raised.
“I want to apologize to Members of Council with respect to today’s flag raising,” he said. “While the City’s Flag Protocol Procedures mirror the City’s Proclamation Policy in many ways, a review of this matter has determined that the request for the flag raising was made by an individual.
"This does not meet the criteria and, when this was discovered, the flag was taken down under my authority.”
The city's flag-raising and proclamations policy says the city will fly the flag of any non-profit group "to help increase public awareness of their programs and activities."
The policy says the city "will not fly the flag of a group or organization whose undertakings or philosophy are contrary to City of Ottawa policies or bylaws, espouse hatred, violence or racism."
More to come.