Saanich council tests the winds around flag policy

Saanich raises Movember flag, prompting concerns the district will be asked to fly flags for various causes

Mayor Richard Atwell and Adam Flint

The District of Saanich will fly a flag marking Movember outside of municipal hall, but several councillors want the district to develop a policy around flying flags in promotion of various causes.

Early Tuesday morning, a flag marking Movember went up on one of the five flag poles outside municipal hall after city council approved a request from the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee to mark the increasingly popular fundraising campaign during which men grow moustaches as part of a campaign to raise awareness and funds about men’s health issues, including prostate cancer.

The committee forwarded the recommendation following a staff presentation.

This year marks the first time that the District of Saanich has supported the campaign. The district also marked new ground earlier this year, when it flew the rainbow flag in support of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community during Pride Week.

But if council continues to break new ground in visibly promoting various causes, several councillors last week expressed concerns about the absence of a policy that would help the district determine which groups and causes would receive this treatment.

Echoing a common sentiment during council deliberations, Coun. Dean Murdock praised staff’s initiative to promote men’s health through the Movember campaign, but also noted that this decision would inspire other groups to come forward.

“It will be important that we put a policy in place,” he said.

Coun. Judy Brownoff agreed with the need for a policy, noting that a number of groups have already approached her to see whether the district would raise their respective flags.

But if council members might be eager for some direction, it could take some time for it to arrive.

Chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson said the development of such a policy does not rank as a high priority. Staff might be able to develop a policy by the first quarter of next year, but not sooner than the end of this year, he said.

Coun. Colin Plant, who was perhaps the most passionate promoter of the cause, said the current absence of a policy should not stand in the way of a good cause, a point echoed by Coun. Fred Haynes, who noted that the district is currently not facing a “tsunami of flags” from various community groups.

Coun. Leif Wergeland, who joined Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Vicki Sanders in voting against the Movember flag raising, expressed concerns that the city might be overwhelmed by similar requests from other groups.

While many worthy causes exist, the concept of raising flags on their behalf would eventually lose its significance, he said.

 

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