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BC Group Wins Against Mayor for Proclaiming Pride Day with No 'Pride'
Mayor to cancel all proclamations in wake of Human Rights Tribunal decision
THE Kelowna, BC -based group Okanagan Rainbow Coalition has been successful in complaining to a BC Human Rights Tribunal that a Pride Day proclamation by the mayor of that city in 1997 as 'Gay and Lesbian Day' was discriminatory.

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Carole Roberts of the Tribunal wrote in her 28-page judgment that Mayor Walter Gray's actions were 'tantamount to a public insult' which discriminated against gays and lesbians.  He has been ordered to treat requests for proclamations from the Community in the same way as he would with other groups.

"Our publicly elected officials cannot let their personal views exclude and marginalize people on the basis of their sexual orientation," Harinder Mahil, the BC Human Rights Commission's deputy chief commissioner, was quoted by the Canadian Press as saying.  He said that many gay and lesbian people in Kelowna were harmed by the dropping of the word 'Pride' which changed the meaning of the expression.

Members of the Rainbow Coalition are happy with the Tribunal's decision even though it rejected requests by them for $10,000 in damages and sensitivity training for the mayor.

"It is a very important decision because one of the big ways that homophobia has operated is that it was deemed inappropriate
to celebrate gay and lesbian pride days," Barbara Findlay, a Vancouver lawyer who represented the Coalition, told the National Post.

Mayor won't be a 'rubber-stamping robot'

In response Mayor Walter Gray has declared he will suggest to Kelowna City Council next week that proclamations from all groups for 'Days' be stopped.

"A mayor becomes nothing more than a rubber-stamping robot and it opens the door to abuse," Mr. Gray told the Post.  "I hope the community will understand my decision."

Claiming to have gay friends, the mayor stated "I am supportive of gays and lesbians.  But I cannot support their lifestyle through a proclamation.

"I mean, next time, it may be the Rainbow Coalition again and I would still have to take the same position I did two years ago, or it may be some race hatred organization ... because in that case, it would be an outright refusal," he continued.

Which led to Ms. Findlay saying the group will be back with more complaints.  She'll argue discrimination again based on the Community being perceived as the cause of the ban.  "That further increases intolerance" she said in a statement.

And she's waiting on a similar complaint filed against the Okanagan Valley town of Oliver which will be heard in July.

Cliff turner of the Coalition told the press he's also happy with the Tribunal's decision but that "it would be really unfortunate if the city council would decide not to sign any proclamations, in other words, discriminating against all other groups just to avoid doing something that some might interpret as supporting one group."