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Pride crosswalks, non-government flags banned in Alberta town after community vote

Westlock, a town of about 5,000 people north of Edmonton, voted Thursday in favour of a bylaw that prohibits rainbow crosswalks and restricts the town to flying only government flags.

Between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, 1,302 Westlock residents reported to a community hall to vote either yes or no to the following question: “Do you agree that: only federal, provincial and municipal flags may be flown on flagpoles on Town of Westlock municipal property; all crosswalks in the Town of Westlock must be the standard white striped pattern between two parallel white lines; and the existing rainbow coloured crosswalk in the Town of Westlock be removed.”

A total of 663 people voted yes; 639 voted no. The yes contingent had 24 more votes.

“Council did not support the proposed Crosswalk and Flagpole bylaw, as we felt it went against our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion,” Mayor Jon Kramer said in a statement to media Thursday evening.

“This plebiscite is binding, and as such, the bylaw does restrict how we are able to show this commitment. However, we will continue to find ways to embrace those in our community who need a helping hand, including marginalized groups. Equity is the reason we require wheelchair accessible parking; it is why we are developing an accessible playground; and yes, it is the reason we show support to marginalized groups like our local 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“That won’t stop, it will just take on a different form.”

The bylaw was proposed in a petition last year by a group that demanded “neutrality” in public spaces, three months after the town’s first Pride crosswalk was painted by a local gay-straight alliance.

Because the petition had signatures from 10 per cent of residents, council was obligated to give it a first reading under the Municipal Government Act. Council members opposed, however, giving the bylaw a second and third reading, resulting in the matter becoming a plebiscite, or direct community vote, according to the provincial legislation.

When Kramer was elected mayor in January, 1,271 people voted in the byelection. 

This is a developing story. More to come… 

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