May 3, 2024

A message to our Queer and Rainbow community members and Allies

Before we clarify some details, we would like to reach out with some words that we hope will resonate with you as we deal with the events of the past few weeks.

Given our collective lived experience as, in, and with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, we are all acutely aware that …” flying a banner does not check all the boxes, and automatically make… an inclusive community.” It takes education, awareness, progressiveness, and governing policies that are shaped at the table where stakeholders are involved. Banners and flags are just one of the first steps an inclusive and growing community can take as they walk forward. That is what the spirit of the banners were meant to convey when they were first installed. They we a symbol to combat the rising anti-gay and transgender discrimination being faced by the community. We believe the banners need to be returned to the lampposts to stand in defiance of the continued and rising anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate. We also believe education and advocacy are need as well. These are part of our mandate and we are working toward make that happen.

Regardless of the type of connection to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community you personally have, you know the Queer community has had to work hard to create and maintain inclusiveness and diversity and weave it into governance and policies that protects us. We draw from the strength of our fellow community activists and despite setbacks, we are not a group that gives up.

We understand and respect that Council is not always required to consult with stakeholders for their policies. However, 2SLGBTQIA+ people know we are stakeholders and our inclusion was required at the table on this policy change. The number of requests coming to Council is also an indication of a growing community and these stakeholders are also important to the process and to not have any of us involved or present, is an error in judgment or an oversight.

According to the definition in Britannica, "The coloured rays of the rainbow are caused by the refraction and internal reflection of light rays that enter the raindrop, each colour, being bent through a slightly different angle."

However, the rainbow in banner or flag form, has in fact, become the international symbol of our Queer rights movement for inclusion and diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and that is not up for discussion or debate.

The Pride flag is a recognized and accepted symbol of the Queer community’s collective struggle and has become a very important symbol that upon seeing it, implies the place, community, business or agency is working toward inclusiveness of a protected minority. There are Queer people in every single country, culture, and belief. We may not always be seen, and in some places the need to stay hidden saves us, but we are always there. Thankfully, we live in a time and a place where areas of acceptance are growing, communities are embracing, and lives are flourishing.

We know the Pride banner is not creating the divisiveness in our community, it is a banner under which we unite and stands as a symbol of acceptance and promotes love, healing and inclusion.

The antiquated mindset behind bigotry is being torn apart as new ideas and generations take up the struggle of equal human rights for all. The once dominant and oppressive mindset, is dissipating and those who still hold on to misinformation behind it, can be afraid they may lose their identity or rights if others gain theirs. While this is not true, hate, based from fear of change, is the real divisiveness.

We know for those who hold this type of fear, often they see these neutral policies, which remove symbols of diversity and inclusion that support progressive attitudes and minorities, as a sign that the governing body represents their bigotry and actually speaks and represents them above all others. This is what we mean when we say bigotry hides behind policies like this.

Now more than ever, we need to be kind to ourselves, and show support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ people in our lives. Reach out, connect, talk with us, check in with us, wear a pin so those who are not comfortable or can not be themselves right now, know there are people that respect them and their right to be free and equal. Help us continue the work that needs to be done for inclusion. We also need to show support for the Woodstock businesses and residents who are actively engaged in their own inclusive work and who are creating safe spaces for everyone.

Woodstock and area is actively more progressive than it was and more people are embracing the richness that diversity provides. We need more community partners to engage and tell us how they are working at creating inclusion for all of us and how we can partner to move us all more forward.

In closing, we wish to ensure you and our growing Queer and Allied community that we will continue to connect with you using whatever tools we have available within our reach. The area we represent is approximately 140 km from end to end, from Meductic and Fosterville areas in Lake Land Ridges, to Florenceville- Bristol and area. Not everyone is able to be in the same place at the same time. This area has many small rural communities outside of the larger urban towns and to ensure we can advocate for you, and until we find and create safe spaces to physically meet, we will continue as we began, online and social.

The Rainbow Crosswalk

May 3, 2024

Clarification on the timeline of communication to the Woodstock Town Council.

For clarification purposes, on September 14, 2023, after learning of the proposed new changes to a policy that may affect the rainbow banners, we contacted, by email, one of the councilors to ask for clarification. We were informed of a public meeting the Town Council was holding to hear from different sporting, arts, and culture organizations. While we were technically not one of those, this council member suggested this may be an avenue to have our concerns expressed. As we were concerned about the banners not be going back up the next year, we decided to put forth a possible compromise and solution, with the thought that if the banners would not be allowed, perhaps at the least, we would still be able to fly a flag for a week. We honestly believed that our idea and potential solution would be looked at and considered.

We made a presentation at this meeting on October 3, 2023 and during a conversation with one of the councilors, we proposed this possible alternative for the flag and proclamation requests. The councilor suggested a possible location for our idea of a flag pole to be erected which the larger community could use. We looked at the space on October 5, 2023, and emailed back to confirm this would be a very suitable location. On October 10, 2023, a reply was received from this same councilor who was pleased the space worked for us.

We then waited for further communication from this councilor or from the Town on our idea, but no further communication was received.

Since the presentation was in the public space, we are providing a copy of the text presentation and our alternative idea, which addressed the number of flag and proclamation requests the town was receiving. Both were physically handed to the same councilor at that meeting.

May 3, 2024

Addressing the lack of documents surround the decision of placing rainbow banners on lampposts.

The Mayor indicated there was a problem with the lack of information and documents on the Pride banners. We know these banners did not magically appear. Without proper documentation found, this should have triggered a robust search. Were the council meeting minutes for the time of installation checked? Were past council members consulted? What about speaking with past or previous staff? With missing documents and nothing to support the instillation, and knowing the “...significance the Pride flag has been throughout history…”, we believe the opportunity to invite stakeholders to provide a well-rounded view was a missed opportunity.

While we do not know the exact extend of the investigation from the Adhoc committee, we do suspect they may not have reached out to people who are still living in Woodstock who had served on council, or had a connection to council, at the time, that could have provided information.

When the we first learned about the possible new policy changes last year, we decided to do our own research and we reach out to see if we could find any information and history on the banners. In one day, we were able to speak with two people, who in some capacity, were privy to information surrounding the banners. It was not until a few days ago, when we spoke to a third person who was able to provide us with further information, that we now beleive we understand the intended purpose and process of the banners. We would like to share this with you now.

We learned the Mayor and Council at the time, approved the decision on the banners through a motion in council, and the result would have been most likely recorded in council minutes, but not as a policy or bylaw. This could result in the lack of paperwork that could be found. They also placed the banners in response to the rising gay and trans discrimination happening in the community at the time.

Further to this, we found in the minutes of the April 26, 2022 Town Council meeting, a proclamation for May 17 as International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. What this shows to us, and to all of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, is that Woodstock was progressing and exemplifying allyship.

With this new information, we believe the precedent had been establish to continue with placing the banners on the lamp posts each year and that they should have been given an exemption in the new policy.

Presentation letter to Woodstock Town Council October 3, 2023

Good Evening Mayor and Council,

My name is Amanda Lightbody and I am the President and the Executive Director of The Rainbow Crosswalk. With me this evening is our Vice President and Health Resources Coordinator Scott MacCallum.

The Rainbow Crosswalk is a new Pride organization in the Woodstock area and we are pleased to be able to introduce ourselves to Mayor and Council this evening. For those who may wonder, our name comes from the Woodstock crosswalk that was vandalized in 2017. The community support that rallied behind the Queer community, showed there is a community of people that care and want inclusion. It is their spirit and determination that we uphold with our organization’s name. It is also from that crosswalk, that a previous Mayor and Council chose to hang the pride banners on the lampposts, which has continued for the last five or six years.

When we began thinking about starting our organization, we began asking people to describe Woodstock. The most common comment was that Woodstock gives the feeling that the community and its people are against queer people. Further comments described Woodstock to be a very conservative town with many churches that also do not support the Queer community and have engaged in conversion therapy which is now an illegal practice in Canada. Others said they could not get away from Woodstock fast enough.

Currently, a large concern and a barrier for inclusion that the Woodstock Queer community faces is the hate, fear, and anger based on misinformation that is being driven by anti-democratic groups and long old bigotry which has escalated dramatically in the past year against the Queer community in New Brunswick, as a whole. This is why we decided to step forward to fill a much-needed void and be the voice for our community here.

As an invisible minority, often having to keep our lives a secret, having Woodstock show a sign of acceptance helps to remove the barriers for queer residents to interact with their community. The banners that are placed each year display the commitment Woodstock Council upholds for human rights and it reminds anyone who sees them that the community of Woodstock is an equity-seeking town and shuns homophobic values, despite that, people still believe Woodstock is homophobic and I have personally seen passive bigotry first hand in Woodstock.

There are queer people in every culture and every country. Queer people are not a nationality or a culture or a group or a lifestyle. We are born as we are, just like you are, into your families, we live and flourish in your communities, we are your friends and colleagues and we are being targeted, attacked and misaligned. This is why we are thankful to the Town of Woodstock and it’s Mayors and councils over the years for their commitment in the past and today on leading the way in standing up as allies for the Queer community and against bigotry, however it is just a start and more needs to be done to address this.

We wish to further our commitment to creating positive change by working with council to achieve our goals and vision of engaging with the Queer community members to create a more respectful and inclusive community space where we can feel seen, safe and welcomed. We also want to work with the growing international and multicultural population and other community partners on this goal. All of us need to continue the work, together, of creating inclusive human rights that are woven into the heart of all Woodstock governing policies. For the Queer community, and other vulnerable groups in the larger community, to be seen, engaged and playing an active part of a growing and vibrant community creates wellness, wellbeing, positive outcomes and prosperity for everyone.

To help move this along, we are currently working on our health initiatives by providing access to Covid tests and masks, safe sex information and products like condoms and at home HIV test kits. We provide information for those who struggle with drug addiction so they can use in ways that reduce other negative health related outcomes. These services and items are for all members of the larger community and at no cost.

We also hope to be able to further our outreach by providing an educational session for parents and the public as a good will gesture to ease the false and mis-information that persists today about the Queer community. We have goals of establishing a few days every June where our community, along with the greater community can come together and celebrate our diversity and pride. As we grow, our goals include creating a physical space for a Centre where we can have our office, a kitchen and dining area for community events, a resource library with a child friendly area, as well as a space for a clothing exchange with gender and health related affirming items.

In closing we would like to thank Woodstock Council again for being such a strong ally and we look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership and to seeing the progressive banners raised again next June.

Thank you,

Amanda Lightbody

President & Executive Director

The Rainbow Crosswalk

Suggestions for an Alternative Flag and Proclamation for the Town of Woodstock

Dear Mayor and Council,

We did not have time to address the issue of banners and the changes council wishes to make. We would like to provide a suggestion to a problem of increased demand on requests for flag display.

With the increase of Immigrants and the Woodstock area growing into a multicultural community that now has over 72 different countries in the Carlton County area, the suggested and reported changes could appear to be rather discriminatory. Instead of creating an inclusive policy, the limitations may be seen as restriction and shutting down expression of culture and inclusion by creating cost and access barriers. All new groups and cultures want to feel included and respected in their new homes and new community, and they want to express themselves.

The job of any mayor and council is not to exclude, but find ways to include their community members that they represent.

We would like to suggest that council find and create a space in Woodstock were community groups can fly their flag for their event, and a place next to it that will provide a platform for them to make any proclamation they need to. In addition, a protected community cultural event board can be erected for these groups to promote their events.

The good publicity and increased community goodwill, which is a solution and compromise, would create an amazing and very well needed positive boost.

We urge Woodstock Council to seriously consider this idea as a win/win.

We make ourselves available to explain further our vision on this idea.

Thank you,

Amanda Lightbody

President & Executive Director

The Rainbow Crosswalk

This is the link to the April 30, 2024 Woodstock Town Council meeting which the following replies are based from. It begins at the 13 minute mark.