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'Very upsetting' Confederate flag still flying in Waubaushene

'Our hands are pretty tied when it comes about this,' said councillor; Staff is working on a report about the issue and will report back to council in September
Tay Township Coun. Mary Warnock said it's very upsetting that a Confederate flag is still flying in Waubaushene. MidlandToday/File Photo

The Confederate flag is flying once again in Waubaushene.

"This is very upsetting," said Coun. Mary Warnock, responding to a letter from Victoria Reaume, the director of Talpines Property Owners' Association. "It is a symbol globally recognized as being a symbol of racism and white supremacy. It's not something I take lightly and I'm sure most of you don't take lightly."

The correspondence included in a recent Tay Township committee of the whole meeting agenda asked council to initate a bylaw banning the flying of the Confederate flag.

"Our community must welcome diversity and recognize that this flag, with its origins in the American south, is a hateful remnant of slavery and oppression of Black People," states the letter. 

"Some call it 'the traitors’ flag. It is such a contentious symbol that even the American military has now banned its use," noted the letter. "Contrary to the argument advanced, the Confederate flag is not a proud symbol of the history and culture of the American south, but rather it is a symbol proudly adopted by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists."

Unfortunately, Warnock said, the ability to take action on this matter mostly lies in the hands of the federal government.

"It's under their jurisdiction," she noted. "Our hands are pretty tied when it comes about this. We can lobby the federal government and the residents are also welcome to lobby their MPs and MPPs to see if we can make a change on the Charter, which is a living document and can be changed." 

Warnock said the movement is there to bring about change.

"We can join forces with other municipalities and try to lobby the federal government to do the same thing," she said. "We don't want it here, that's for sure."  

Lindsay Barron, chief administrative officer, said staff is working to bring forward a report on the matter at the September council meeting.

"At the July 22 meeting, the issue was brought forward by Coun. Bumstead and staff did receive direction to prepare a report outlining the options on our responsibility, as well as some recommendations on how the township should proceed with complaints of that regard," she said, adding staff has already begun researching the matter.

"The research conducted to-date shows that while we have the ability to pass a bylaw to prohibit flags or symbols that are deemed to be contrary to the principles of the township on public property, we don't have the jurisdiction on private property," said Barron. 

"We know there are some municipalities that have some bylaws that attempt at prohibiting hate speech and symbols," Barron said. "Some information we've received to-date suggests that these bylaws may not be as effective as they think prohibiting the display of flags, such as the Confederate flags."