Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The Town of Slave Lake will fly the LGBTQ2S+ flag during the first week in June.

LGBTQ2S+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, and other gender or sexual non-binary people. The pride flag as it is often called is either a rainbow or rainbow plus other colours.

A large group of LGBTQ2S+ people and allies presented to council to request that the town fly the pride flag.

Kuranda Bellerive describes herself as an LGBQ2S+ ally.

She asked council to fly the flag to “show how united we can be and diverse.”

Her sister Paige Bellerive presented by video. She describes herself as a two-spirit Métis person, who is bisexual.

Two-spirit comes from a traditional Indigenous concept, says The Canadian Encyclopedia, and “refers to a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit.”

Paige grew up in Slave Lake, and found support for her gender and sexual identity.

“We’re a safe place,” she said. “You can be seen and heard.”

Local business owner and executive director of Community Futures Lesser Slave Lake, Josh Friesen, is a bit older than Paige. He is gay. His experience as a teen in Slave Lake was very different. He moved to the community at 15 years old. The community as a whole welcomed his family, but his school mates bullied him because he was gay.

“If it were not for my family and my pastor at the time,” he said, “I might not have moved back to Slave Lake.”

The act of flying the flag goes beyond symbolism, he said. It sends “a clear message that our community values diversity.”

Other members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, including teenagers, told their stories.

Councillor Ali Mouallem had done some research and found that there are many different types of flags.

“Does this encompass everyone?” he asked of the flag being proposed by the group.

The one that the town currently has is a rainbow, which a similar group donated to the town several years earlier.

Matthew Holden, who describes himself as an LGBTQ2S+ ally, is working to get a formal group organized.
Friesen suggested letting the group decide which flag is appropriate.

“That’s our policy anyway,” said Councillor Steve Adams.

Councillor Kim Hughes said it was very moving to hear people’s stories.

Councillor Adams made the motion to fly the flag saying flying it shows that, “people are not only accepted, but valued.”

The town has flown the flag (most or possibly every) year since 2019. However, the town’s flag policy requires groups to present to council each year for the flag to be flown.

Friesen asked council to change this policy, so it is less work for groups.

The flag policy is a wider discussion and not on the agenda today, Deputy Mayor Shawn Gramlich told Friesen.

The flag bylaw has been changed three times in the last six months, said Councillor Adams.