‘Cowardly acts’: RCMP investigate Pride flag vandalism in North Cowichan

'Cowardly acts': RCMP investigate Pride flag vandalism in North Cowichan
Pride flag file photo.

A Pride flag in North Cowichan has to be replaced after it was vandalized this week, prompting a police investigation into the incident that a gay rights advocate is calling a hate crime.

Around 11 p.m. Monday, May 20, the Pride flag flying alongside the Canada and B.C. flags at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre was vandalized, according to the Municipality of North Cowichan.

It’s causing some to voice concern.

“Hate crimes like this are a stark reminder that many queer and transgendered folks are still worried about their safety,” said Teresa Stebbing, president of the Cowichan Pride Society. 

The municipality on Wednesday said “RCMP is investigating,” as North Cowichan Mayor Rob Douglas condemned those responsible, calling their actions “cowardly.”

Douglas adds that “the Pride flag represents inclusion and acceptance, and cowardly acts that desecrate these symbols are a reminder about why continuing to recognize and support events such as Pride month are still so very important.

“There is no place in this world for hatred,” he said.

Almost Pride month

Pride month, typically in June, is “a time to celebrate 2SLGBTQI+ people (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex, or who use other terms related to sexual or gender diversity) and honour the contributions that they have made and continue to make,” says the Government of Canada.

North Cowichan says the vandalized flag was removed and will be replaced soon. It’s flown on May 17 for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and from June 1 to 30 for Pride month.

If no other guest flags are scheduled, the Pride flag stays up between May 18 and June 1.

“In the face of injustice and hate, we must come together as a community in celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ and other marginalized members of our community,” added Stebbing in a news release.

This isn’t the first Pride flag to be vandalized on Vancouver Island.

Last December, flags outside an Esquimalt home were destroyed for the third time that year. Months prior, Langford Pride banners were targeted 24 hours after being displayed. Vandals have also damaged Pride crosswalks on various occasions.

In 2021, two men were arrested after a Pride crosswalk painted by school students in Colwood was defaced with hateful language, including homophobic slurs.

Another Pride society president doesn’t get the hate.

“We are not scary people, we are just trying to live our lives. There is no wrong way to love, and I hope they are able to realize that we just want to be. It’s OK for us to all live in the same world together, cohesively, with compassion,” said Victoria Pride Society president Ace Mann in an interview last year.

“Our message is love, and that will always win.”

Anyone with information about the North Cowichan Pride flag vandalism can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

READ ALSO: ‘Really important’: Locals voice concerns about ‘lack’ of LGBTQ+ safe spaces

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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