Norwich, Ont., votes to exclude Pride flags on township property

The township of Norwich, Ont. voted to exclude Pride flags from being flown on its property. Instead, the municipality has moved to only fly flags representing municipal, provincial and federal governments.

New bylaw only allows federal, provincial and municipal flags to flown

Group of teenagers and their mom, holding Pride flags and signs saying "Love thy Neighbour"

The township of Norwich, Ont., has voted to exclude Progress Pride flags from being flown on its property. Instead, the municipality has moved to only fly flags representing municipal, provincial and federal governments.

The bylaw was proposed by Coun. John Scholten at a Tuesday night council meeting. Scholten says he believes civic flags best represent all groups of people, and allow everyone to coexist in harmony, regardless of their identity or beliefs.

"Whether flown together or apart, these [government] flags are all we need to represent the diverse and multicultural citizenship in Norwich township," Scholten said.

"To open the door to flying flags that represent any particular group, organization, or ideology, will only divide rather than unite."

According to Scholten, accommodating Pride flags will only inspire other communities to request their own flags.

The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Jim Palmer breaking the tie. Other than government flags, the only other banners allowed to be installed on township streetlight poles are those promoting downtown businesses, or for downtown beautification.

The decision disappointed hundreds of people who came to the meeting to protest the bylaw, which has divided residents of the Oxford County township located east of London, Ont.

"It's very disheartening to see the way that they voted," said Norwich resident, Tyler Zacher-King. "I thought for sure this would've been voted down, so I'm disappointed to see that didn't happen."

Bylaw followed flag thefts and vandalism

Zacher-King was one of eight residents who spoke at the meeting. He expressed support for flying Pride banners, and questioned both Scholten and Mayor Jim Palmer, who voted last year to allow Norwich's business improvement association to put up rainbow flags when they were both councillors.

Progress Pride flags include black and brown stripes to represent marginalized LGBTQ communities of colour, as well as pink, light blue and white, which are used on the Transgender Pride flag

The contentious issue was ignited last summer when the flags were stolen and vandalized on multiple occasions in the town of just over 11,100 people. In March, Scholten proposed a bylaw that would permit government flags on township property. Last week, he amended that bylaw to ban Progress Pride flags.

Norwich resident Wendy Martin said she supported the ban on Progress Pride flags because she believes the Canadian flag respects and encompasses everyone's views.

"It was going to be an emotional vote no matter which way it went tonight," Martin said.

"This has been a turmoil for many years. People need to come together as one and accept each other for who they are. There's going to be a long healing process on this but we need to find a way to build common ground."

Julie Andronico has lived in the town for about a year and said it was important for her to show her allyship for the LGBTQ+ community, in hopes of a safer future for her two young children.

"I want to make sure that I raise my children in a town that's going to appreciate them for who they are, whoever they end up being," Andronico said.

The council also voted down a motion that would proclaim June as Pride month starting this summer.


Isha Bhargava


Isha Bhargava is a multiplatform reporter for CBC News. She's worked for Ontario newsrooms in Toronto and London. She loves telling current affairs and human interest stories. You can reach her at

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