It’s 2020 and there are many things that are normal parts of our society today that just weren’t decades ago. We’ve progressed a lot as a society and we’ve got a lot to be proud of there. But as with anything when it comes to progress, some don’t get the memo and as a result, look terrible for it. A great example of this are pride celebrations all over the country. Pride events are a fixture in communities all over the place, in the largest cities and smallest hamlets, as communities come together to celebrate and support one another.
Along with support for pride events in communities, it’s quite normal for municipal governments to fly the pride flag as a part of these events. It’s a simple way to show support and for municipal governments to take part in these events. Also in 2020, asking municipal governments to fly the pride flag above their offices is about as simple a thing to pass before a municipal government as there is these days. But on Tuesday night, the Township of Emo managed to fail that basic test of decency, in a way that was quite shocking:
For those who don’t know Emo, it’s a small town of 1,200 people just west of Fort Frances. It’s not known for much outside of the Norlund Chapel and recently the most notable thing to happen there was a CN rail derailment in February. When you add Tuesday nights “debate” at Emo Township Council, which you can listen to above, Emo might now be striving to be the train wreck capital of Northwestern Ontario, as that meeting was surely another to add to the first we saw on the CN lines.
Listening to that debate left me feeling like I wasn’t even in 2020 anymore and reminded me more of the kind of thing you’d might hear many decades ago. Ironically, Emo has shown their support for Borderland Pride, the organization that organizes pride festivities in the region, through motion of council. So what about a flag is such a problem? Mayor Harold McQuaker tried an argument that was about as ignorant as it was dishonest. He actually “argued it wasn’t fair to celebrate one side of the coin without celebrating the other.” When asked straight out “what’s the other side of the coin?”, McQuaker replied “Well, the other side of the coin (is) there’s no flags being flown for the straight people.”
Yep, that’s the kind of “logic” that sunk a straightforward, pro-forma motion showing support for some of their residents. If that was where this story ended, it would have just been a sad note of intolerance from a handful of small-minded municipal politicians. But nope, it’s not where this ended, not at all. Thunder Bay Television made a trip to the Rainy River District to do a piece on this story and Mayor McQuaker made a statement that took this piece of ignorance to a whole new level:
Yes folks, that’s what he said. To fully quote the piece above, he said “he likes to think Emo is a good, Christian-based community and that he had to think of his supporters when he cast the deciding vote.” Wow folks, wow. I’ve have to admit reading that quote is what set me off on this for many reasons. First of all, I know Emo well and through out my life, both personal and professional, I’ve had the good fortune to spend lots of time there. So when I read that comment, it flew in the face of what I know of Emo.
Yes, there are Christians who live in Emo. There are Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, of other faiths and even atheists. When you look at the last census for the community, you’ll see there are people of European decent, Indigenous peoples, of Latin American decent, South Asian and others too. Emo isn’t the most diverse place on the planet, don’t get me wrong, but it’s far from being this little cove of Christian theology either. That’s the first problem with McQuaker’s assertion.
The second comes from the implication of his words. In saying that he believes that Emo is “Christian-based”, is he suggesting that those who don’t believe in Christ are somehow lesser citizens of his community? How about all those other communities around them that support Borderland Pride, bigger and smaller than Emo like Fort Frances, Rainy River and Morley? Are they somehow lesser places and their citizens lesser people because they support pride events? Are Christians who live in those places and support Borderland Pride “Bad Christians” because of that support? Heck, what of Emo itself, give that they’ve supported Pride events for a while itself? Was Emo a fallen municipality that has somehow “been redeemed” by refusing to fly a flag? Those are all things that McQuaker’s ignorance suggests, something that I doubt that many of his “supporters” would agree with. His suggestions also fly in the face of what Emo actually is, not what he wishes that it were.
But finally and maybe most pointedly, who in the Hell is Harold McQuaker to decide what is and isn’t acceptable to “Christians”? Who says you cannot be a believer in Christ and not at the same time support the LGBTQ2S community? I would suggest that Harold slept through a lot of his Sunday school lessons as a kid because by trying to suggest that flying a pride flag is somehow inconsistent with Christian values is not just ignorant, but ignorant of the words of Jesus Christ himself. That’s not unique to Harold, as he’s far from being alone amongst some on the social conservative right to do that, but it’s striking given just how hypocritical the whole thing is. How in the Hell did a rainbow flag become a bridge too far here in his eyes?
As maddening and ignorant as this story is, there is a way for folks to act to help make it better. Borderland Pride is circulating an online petition linked here calling on Emo Council to reconsider and do the right thing. So please sign it, share it and let’s support those in the Rainy River District that those three councilors in Emo don’t seem to believe should be supported. In the meantime, Emo is suffering a black eye from this, inflicted by their own mayor and two councilors. I know that the people of Emo are better than those three people and I’m confident that when the next elections come around they’ll show that by show these three occupants of those council seats the door, which this incident shows they richly deserve.