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Cowichan shows local government pride

Jim VanDeventer helped get the pride flag flying at Duncan City Hall for the duration of the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics. - Andrew Leong
Jim VanDeventer helped get the pride flag flying at Duncan City Hall for the duration of the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

The Sochi Olympics have created a global platform for the discussion of gay rights and at least two local government bodies wanted to add their voices.

The City of Duncan has agreed to raise a pride flag at city hall for the duration of Sochi's Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The decision came following a request from city residents Roger Chin and Jim VanDeventer.

"The terms equity and equality are sometimes used interchangeably, which can lead to confusion because while these concepts are related, there are also important distinctions between them," they wrote.

"Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things.

"Our neighbour provides therapy for children.  One day last year a mother of a boy noticed us working in our garden.  After learning that we are a gay couple, the mother withdrew her boy after many years of service.  Our neighbour was quite shocked by all of this but holds no grudge against us.  On the contrary, she has a greater understanding of the hate we have to endure.

"There will be concern that this will set a precedent for other groups.  But we suggest that if there's another group for which a country beats them up, imprisons them and executes them, or they're bullied so much that they want to commit suicide, or they are outcast by their own parents, then that would set a very strict and rare criteria.

"One quote from Elie Wiesel in his 1986 Nobel acceptance speech: 'I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.'"

Duncan joins 37 cities and counting across Canada in this statement.

Meanwhile, at its Feb. 11 meeting, North Cowichan council expressed support for all the participants in the Olympic Games at Sochi, regardless of sexual orientation. Any discrimination based on sexual orientation, whether by action or in law, was condemned by council.

Russia has come under fire for a law that bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors," which critics say effectively makes it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, and distribute of material on gay rights.

For video of the flag raising, click here.

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