Today’s Poll

Newly amended policy on flags and banners removed, with no community events touted by city

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 22nd, 2019

Council has chosen the middle ground when it comes to banners and flags in Nelson.

After receiving mixed feedback on its intent to establish a community banner and flag policy, city council has opted to scrap the idea altogether.

Due to “controversy” around the proposed policy — which came to light earlier this year — the city has repealed the policy that once allowed local non-profit organizations to apply to have the city hang their banners and raise their flags to promote local events.

Starting this month the city will no longer be accepting banner or flag applications.

“Moving forward, council will utilize the banner space to promote city initiatives and events, such as Fire Prevention Week or the Green Home and Energy Show,” noted a city staff report.

Banner and flag applications that had already been approved for this year will be honoured, noted the city staff report.

The city conducted a Charter of Rights and Freedoms investigation in March on banner usage after a simple policy amendment raised some serious questions about its practice.

A debate on whether the city had the right to allow a certain banner to be hung on Baker Street — a service the city provided to eligible community group events — erupted after a request to amend the Community Flag and Street Banner Policy was made in an early March regular council meeting.

There was a banner hung on Baker Street in the past that some on council felt “violated” the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ran contrary to the city’s banner policy and infringed on the rights of others.

A pro life banner had been approved by city staff on the basis the group was allowed “to have their values and what they believed in” contained in the banner under the city’s policy.

But the fact that a banner with such an oppositional view — and not an events-based banner — was placed above Baker Street was confusing and unsettling for some on council.

The prominent banner placement in general sent a message that the city approved of whatever rode above the city’s main street, it was noted by some councillors.

“But if council is concerned we could go out and get a legal opinion on that,” noted city manager Kevin Cormack at the time.

Others on council agreed with that sentiment.

The banner space on Baker was seen as a prominent place that could communicate the city’s message, instead of promoting community events, said Coun. Rik Logtenberg in March.

“It’s such a prominent spot,” he said. “For many people it’s their first experience of Baker Street and of Nelson.

“We should consider it as something just the city uses then it removes this issue of competition of whether we should put their banner up or whether we shouldn’t.”

The city raised community banners in 19 of 52 weeks in 2018. Cormack had suggested the city could raise its own communicative banner on the other remaining weeks outside of community events.

The banners were not meant to be an endorsement of any group, they were meant to be advertisements for community events, he pointed out. 

“You have to look at it like council isn’t there to make a judgement on any particular group,” but as long as it met the Charter it would be okay to raise it, Cormack added.

In March a policy amendment to remove the Civic Centre Building (Vernon Street) as a location option for hanging community banners was passed, but it was decided at the time to keep all hung banners to Baker Street.

However, directly after the vote, a motion was put forth and passed to direct city staff to make sure the banner policy was not infringing on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the city explore language to “ensure that the banners are inclusive.”

Categories: General

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