Skip to content

Emo 'dug in' on Pride position, rejected compromise

The Township of Emo, its mayor and two councillors could have avoided the Human Rights Tribunal hearings that started Tuesday, says a co-chair of Borderland Pride.
Harold McQuaker
Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker. (Thunder Bay Television photo)

FORT FRANCES – The Township of Emo, its mayor and two councillors could have avoided the Human Rights Tribunal hearings that started Tuesday, says a co-chair of Borderland Pride.

“We have made numerous overtures to bring this to a close and to try to reach an amicable resolution,” Douglas Judson said in an interview before the hearings, which began Tuesday morning.

“The municipality has instead dug in. They refused and rebuffed all of those efforts.”

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario proceeding, scheduled for five days, has its roots in a 3-2 decision Emo council made in May 2020 against proclaiming June Pride Month and displaying a Pride flag at the municipal office.

Borderland Pride asked council to change its decision, but Mayor Harold McQuaker and the two other council members who voted against recognizing Pride Month refused.

The Pride organization offered in mid-April 2024 to drop its human rights complaint if the township agreed to meet certain conditions, including issuing a formal apology and proclaiming June as Pride Month.

“This is a good deal. You should take it,” Borderland Pride’s letter to Emo stated. “The alternative is to continue to waste taxpayer money fighting a losing battle in defence of bigotry and hate.”

The township rejected the proposal.

A Pride proclamation is “a very routine request” that other municipalities handle with no problem, Judson said Monday.

“It’s a way for people in positions of civic and community leadership to demonstrate their very basic support of diversity and inclusion for the queer and trans community in their cities, but also a way to show that the municipality itself is an open and inclusive place and does not discriminate in the provision of services,” he said.

“So it was very shocking, back then, that a municipality in 2020 would refuse to make a proclamation.”

Council members who voted no sent a message to LGBTQ residents “that they don’t care about you, and I think that that is very disheartening,” he said.

“I think it’s very damaging. And I think it puts a population that is already vulnerable and at risk at even greater risk.”

Borderland Pride’s application before the tribunal seeks remedies including an apology, the proclamation of Pride Month and raising the rainbow Pride flag at the township office.

The Pride organization is also seeking monetary compensation in the amounts of $15,000 from the municipality and $10,000 each from the three council members who voted no.

Judson estimated the municipality of 1,400 has spent more than $100,000 fighting Borderland Pride’s complaint when it could have easily settled it.

When the matter of proclaiming June to be Pride Month was debated in Emo council in 2020, Mayor Harold McQuaker said the proclamation wouldn’t be fair because “there’s no flags being flown for the straight people.”

McQuaker and the municipality did not reply to requests for comment by Tuesday afternoon.

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After working at newspapers across the Prairies, Mike found where he belongs when he moved to Northwestern Ontario.
Read more

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks