Wellington County OPP raises flag for Pride month

ABOYNE – A Pride flag is flying above the OPP station here – a symbol to residents and visitors alike that Wellington County is caring, inclusive, accepting of all, and won’t stand for intolerance or hate.

A group of dignitaries attended the flag raising event on June 2 to stand in solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Amber Holmes, an Indigenous two-spirited employee with Wellington County social services, talked about her relationship with the land and the gathering circle recently installed by the county.

“This is meaningful,” she said.

“It’s significant to have the flag raised on this land, in this place, with these people, at this time.”

Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott said he was proud to join the celebration.

“We have seen many recent examples that show that hate and misunderstanding are still present in our society,” he said.

“We come together today to show that we celebrate our incredible community diversity, which enriches all our lives.

“And we raise the pride flag as a sign of our commitment to counter ignorance with facts, discrimination with acceptance, and hatred with love.”

Senator Rob Black and Perth-Wellington MPP Mattew Rae both talked about the need to protect the rights of all minorities, and how everyone has the right to feel safe in their community.

OPP Staff Sergeant Ron Smith noted the flag is at half-mast in honour of Huron-Perth OPP officer Steven Tourangeau, who was travelling in an unmarked cruiser and collided with a school bus on May 29.

Both Tourangeau and the bus driver were killed in the crash.

Staff Sergeant Ron Smith speaks as the Pride flag is raised at the Wellington County OPP operations centre in Aboyne. Photo by Joanne Shuttleworth


Joanne Young-Evans, executive director of Compass Community Services, said its 2SLGBTQIA+ distress line is busy and many of the callers are youth contemplating suicide as they endure harassment and bullying at school and feel they won’t be supported by their families if they come out.

“This community needs more change,” she said. “I don’t mean to rain on this parade, but the harassment has to stop.

“We have to be more inclusive. We should all be treated equally.”

Minto Pride committee member Sam Greer noted there has been a 64% rise in hate crimes between 2019 and 2021, and 64% of students say they hear homophobic comments regularly at school.

“It’s harder to be queer in rural areas,” Greer said. “It can be isolating and scary in the country, especially for youth.

“Bigotry and slurs are so amplified … I challenge you to show your support.”

Norwich Township council recently voted to ban non-governmental flags, including Pride flags, on municipal property.

Warden Andy Lennox, who attended the flag raising but did not speak at the podium, told the Advertiser he’s pleased Wellington County recognizes “all members of the community.

“We have chosen a different path and I thank everyone for that,” he said.

Centre Wellington Mayor Shawn Watters also attended the event. Council here recently passed its strategic plan, with diversity, equity and inclusion among its priorities.

“It’s badly needed,” Watters said, noting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community should not have to be afraid of being who they are.

“We need to be supportive and look after each other. A strong, viable community has to be respectful of all people.”

Ward 5 Centre Wellington councillor Bronwynne Wilton said she’ll be happy when the diversity, equity and inclusion advisory committee gets going.

“Volunteers have stepped up for that committee and that’s good to see,” she said.

After the speeches, Young-Evans noted the Compass distress lines are funded by the United Way as well as private donations – and don’t receive government funding.

“We need to fly the flag – that’s good and important. But we really need resources and we don’t have them like we should,” she said.