The first round of recommendations from Saanich’s LGBTQ subcommittee was met with open arms on Monday though council sought clarification for a number of the group’s proposals.
At their latest meeting, Saanich council reviewed five recommendations from the group, which included safe and welcoming signage on district-owned buildings, sensitivity training for district staff, diversity and gender neutral language in Saanich marketing materials, an all body swim at a recreation centre and the flying of the pride and trans flags at Saanich Municipal Hall during pride week.
While council was supportive of the committee’s goals, some councillors raised concerns over a lack of direction in some of the recommendations, specifically in regard to the signage and sensitivity training.
“There are a lot of issues in here that could involve considerable resources,” said Coun. Vic Derman. “Do we have instances of our staff not demonstrating adequate sensitivity when dealing with members of this particular group? If that’s the case, we need to rectify that. If not, I would be hesitant to put a lot of resources in training staff for something that is not a problem.”
“Without knowing further information about what we’re actually asking for, I’d be very concerned about just throwing another level of (sensitivity) training at staff and saying, ‘OK, this is for everybody,’” echoed Coun. Dean Murdock.
Coun. Leif Wergeland questioned if the signage recommendation would inadvertently “single out” members of the LGBTQ community rather than provide a sense of inclusiveness to all Saanich residents.
Coun. Fred Haynes acknowledged Wergeland’s point as “thoughtful” in bringing together the local community, but also tried to understand the point of view of the subcommittee.
“Right now, there is a feeling from the LGBTQ community that perhaps they do need some recognition that they don’t have a say, and by naming them in that, it may give them a sense of welcomeness,” said Haynes.
Coun. Judy Brownoff noted that the Pride Week flag recommendation may be difficult to carry out because of the district’s flag policy.
“The whole issue of our flag policy is very restrictive,” she said, referencing issues with flags during B.C. Disability Week and Respectful Seniors Week in previous years. “There’s a number of issues of flying flags and that policy may have to be looked at in a broader perspective.”
Coun. Colin Plant, who helped assemble the LGBTQ subcommittee, acknowledged his fellow councillors’ concerns, but also noted the recommendations are potentially a progressive step for the district.
“I think this is a time when people are looking at LGBTQ issues under a magnifying glass, and we have an opportunity to make a political statement,” he said.
Rather than approve the recommendations, council passed a motion requesting staff to prepare a report for the subcommittee to better inform the recommendations, which would return to council at a later date.