Several residents of an Ontario town are “outraged” by their mayor’s refusal to lower the Canadian flag in honour of Humboldt bus crash victims.
Mississippi Mills residents have been pushing for the flag outside their local arena to be at half-mast until all funerals are completed for the 16 who died earlier this month in a Saskatchewan bus crash.
FULL COVERAGE: Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy
Jan Maydan, who is part of the area’s taxpayers’ advocacy coalition, explained to Global News that the bus accident, which involved the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, hit particularly close to the hockey town.
“We have a couple big hockey teams in the area that are highly supported,” she said. “People have children in hockey.”
But Mayor Shaun McLaughlin has refused, saying that lowering the flag for such tragedies does not fit the municipality’s flag policy.
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Maydan explained that the mayor refused a local resident’s request to lower the flag over email on Wednesday. But when the controversy gained attention, he wrote about it online.
In a blog post Friday, the mayor said that several other nearby towns also did not lower their flags. He also said residents pushing for the flag to be lowered can’t “cherry-pick” tragedies.
“I didn’t see RATPAC calling for us to lower the flag when a man shot 25 Canadian Muslims in their Quebec mosque in January. Or when police turned up seven bodies of gay men murdered by a serial killer in Toronto. Or for the hundreds of murdered indigenous women,” he wrote.
“You can’t just cherry-pick your misfortunes. You need a policy.”
According to a copy of Mississippi Mills’ flag policy shared with Global News, the Canadian flag can be lowered if a current or former official dies, or in “special events recognized by the Canadian government that recognize the death of a universal major figure(s).”
The policy does not explicitly mention events such as the bus crash.
She added that the Canadian flag was lowered on Parliament Hill, and that should be reason enough for municipalities to follow suit.
“I think the federal government sort of takes the lead on that sort of thing,” she said.
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PRATAC weighs in
Maydan is the director at large for the Pakenham Ramsay & Almonte Taxpayers’ Advocacy Coalition (PRATAC), which has taken the lead in pushing for the mayor to change his mind.
On Friday, the group posted a message on its website, saying “residents are not only embarrassed but outraged” by McLaughlin’s decision.
“Yes they have their policies but wouldn’t common sense dictate that a national tragedy such as this would take very little effort to make an exception of this policy?” the news release read.
Maydan explained that the mayor’s office and PRATAC have butted heads over issues in the past, which is why he may have referred to the group as “RATPAC” rather than “PRATAC” in his blog post.
McLaughlin declined an interview request sent by Global News.
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Flag lowered by local residents
As disagreement over whether the flag should be lowered brews, local residents have taken action themselves.
Maydan explained that the flag was lowered to half-mast by an unknown resident Thursday night, and remained that way until much of Friday morning.
Town officials then set it to full-mast, but someone lowered it again.
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“It’s sort of out in the open, I guess people can go out and lower it. It’s the residents who’ve been pulling it down, not the town,” Maydan said.
“It really upset people, the attitude that he’s taking.”
Jersey Day and #SticksOutForHumboldt
Meanwhile, several residents of the town took part in other gestures to pay tribute to those affected by the Humboldt Broncos crash.
Many wore hockey jerseys on Friday, while others put hockey sticks outside their doors to remember the victims.
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