Yellowknife rethinking policy on flying international flags at city hall

Shot of the Canadian flag. File stock image.
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The city is rethinking their policy on flying other nations’ flags for special occasions outside city hall.

City administration staff drafted a policy which lays out how the city decides what country’s flags to fly in front of city hall, and how they will decide in the future.

Little in the draft policy has changed from how the council normally makes these decisions. Rather the policy just “formalizes the procedure,” according to Sheila Bassi-Kellet, administrator with the City of Yellowknife.

Flag raisings will now be announced online on the city’s website, as well as official proclamations, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty added in a governance and committee meeting on Monday. Currently, only proclamations are listed online.

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City administration has been working on this since last January, when city council directed them to come up with protocols on when it’s appropriate to raise flags, as well as lowering flags and making official proclamations at city hall.

This comes after several controversies around flags being raised or not being raised outside of city hall.

Some called out the city when the city flew Turkey’s flag on Turkish Republic Day in October 2019. This offended Yellowknife’s Armenian community, because of Turkey’s role in the Armenian genocide.

This year, the city signed an official proclamation to declare October 29 Turkey’s national holiday but declined to raise the Turkish flag.

Councillor Shauna Morgan proposed scrapping official proclamations and only raising flags that recognize local communities and groups and not other countries.

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“National flags are symbols, and they can sometimes cause real distress and hurt,” said Morgan.

Morgan added that community organizations for people of specific nationalities could still fly a flag, if it depicted their group specifically, rather than the national flag.

Several councillors reiterated Morgan’s comments, including councillor Cynthia Mufandaedza — who is originally from Zimbabwe — and said country’s flags can often come “with a lot of baggage.”

Councillor Rommel Silverio, who was born in the Philippines, said he is for raising other country’s flags.

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“When we raise a flag, we don’t always go into the geopolitics,” he said on Monday. “I always think of the friendship with a country, and welcoming people to Canada.”

Councillor Niels Konge, who holds both Canadian and Danish passports, supported raising international flags.

“I think we can celebrate the people who are in our community and are contributing to our local community with diversity,” he said. “I think that is important that we show support of those people in where they came from.”

The policy will be put up for vote before city council.

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