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Westlock passes crosswalk bylaw, mayor says inclusion important

Bylaw banning Pride flags and crosswalks “in the books against council’s better judgement,” says Westlock mayor
Town of Westlock councillors unanimously passed second and third readings of the Crosswalk- Flagpole Bylaw 2023-14 at the March 11 regular council meeting.

With no discussion, questions, or comments except for those from the Town of Westlock Mayor Jon Kramer, councillors quietly and unanimously passed second and third readings of the crosswalk and flagpole neutrality bylaw. 

At the March 11 meeting, Mayor Jon Kramer made the motion for second reading and noted that some councillors had expressed a desire to share comments prior to the bylaw’s passage but no one, except the mayor spoke up. 

“I wanted to begin by saying while it is no secret to anyone here that council stands in opposition to this bylaw, we want it clear that we are firm in our commitment to respecting all of our residents, hearing all of our residents and working hard for all of our residents whether they have voted yes or no or abstained altogether from voting. That is a job that councillors signed up for and we take it seriously,” said Kramer, noting that moving forward, the council chamber will continue to be a place where they will debate ideas, not individuals and discuss policies, not people.

“Please know that we are 100 per cent committed to following our legislative responsibility this evening.”

With that said, the mayor also made it clear that they are “being compelled by the province to put this resident-driven bylaw in the books against our better judgement,” and wanted to explain two final thoughts.

“The first one is, as elected officials we believe in data-driven decision making. Not emotional, not political, not random but in data,” said Kramer. “So that’s why this sits so poorly I think, with our council. The data says that every level of government in this country reads it is a good thing to use public infrastructure to promote diversity and inclusion. It’s a valuable tool, especially at the municipal level,” he added.

He stressed the data available to council indicated that “this is not a good bylaw and I still do not believe that it will serve our community well.”

Kramer also wanted it clear that the “plebiscite vote was not a referendum on the town’s ability to partner with and support our 2SLGBTQ+ community,” he said, noting that the group is not an ideology and is, in fact, a nationally recognized, identifiable and protected group of people within the country.

“In August 2022 the federal government launched an actual plan to advance rights and equality for 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada,” he said. “Please know as a town we will continue to pursue inclusive practices, programming and policies across the board like we’ve done for years, and yes, 2SLGBTQ+ community will be part of those initiatives moving forward,” said Kramer.  

Chief Administrative Officer Simone Wiley provided a brief background including how the bylaw came to council and why it was being passed into law.

“Administration received a petition from a resident Sept. 15, requesting that a bylaw be tasked with ensuring crosswalks and flags on public property remain neutral and adhere to the following, said Wiley, noting the bylaw was brought to council Nov. 27, where after first reading, councillors chose to take the crosswalk and flagpole bylaw to a public vote on Feb. 22. “On the date of the (plebiscite) 1,306 electors cast their vote with the results being 663 in favour of the bylaw and 639 opposed,” she added, noting through the counting process four ballots were rejected. “With the vote in favour of Crosswalk-Flagpole Bylaw 2023-14, council has no other option but to pass second and third reading of the bylaw as it’s presented.”

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Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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