Proclaiming the city's pride
By Dave Yasvinski
Gay Pride Week was officially proclaimed Monday night after a majority vote by London's City Council.
The meeting drew widespread interest as a result of London Mayor Dianne Haskett's refusal to offer a proclamation to the Homophile Association of London Ontario for the event three years ago. As a result, the Human Rights Commission ruled Haskett and council's actions to be discriminatory and forced them to pay $10,000 to HALO. The adjudicator's order ruled future proclamations could be sought from the Mayor or the city of London.
This time around Haskett avoided the situation altogether by withdrawing herself from council during the voting process after citing a conflict of interest. "I sought independent legal advice and my lawyer advised me I had a conflict of interest because I was the only council member named in the order," she said.
The commission's ruling made against Haskett and the city cast a shadow on this year's vote as councillors were advised that voting against this proclamation could subject them to a $25,000 fine, another human rights complaint or even a contempt of court charge.
Ward One councillor Sandy Levin said this ruling may have been a factor in the vote on the motion which passed 15-2. "I think the results would have been different I wouldn't pretend to say how much," he said.
Levin added he voted in favour of the motion because it's time a page was turned in London's history. He also said he voted in favour of scrapping the proclamation process altogether. "Proclamations eventually become divisive they don't change attitudes."
While that vote failed, another vote passed which will see the responsibility for issuing proclamations fall on the city clerk. This decision somewhat satisfied Levin. "Given the choice between the council and the court's office, I prefer the court's office," he said.
Dan Wilson, chair of HALO's political action committee, said they were happy to see the vote go the way it did as it was a symbolic act for council to issue a proclamation. "It was a good day for human rights in Ontario," he said.
Wilson said he was not concerned about Haskett's decision to withdraw herself from the voting process. "This really wasn't a day about the mayor, it was a day about the strength and resilience of the gay and lesbian community," he said.