KAMLOOPS — Kamloops council has approved a new policy that will allow community groups to request having their flags flown in front of City Hall.
The document is an addition to a previous policy governing street and pole banners in the city.
Council voted 6-3 to install a flagpole on the lawn in front of City Hall near Victoria Street, and allow groups to request their flags be flown on the pole for up to one week.
The vote wasn't without its spirited debate, as council wrestled with how to handle requests from groups supporting potentially controversial causes.
"My caution is discretion of any matter gets us into a whole legal issue, and gets us into what I would call 'the culture wars.' If council wants to go down that road, I totally support us having that ability to actually allow things - but it has to be everybody," said Councillor Arjun Singh, who voted against the policy and pole.
"For my colleagues - we're going to get criticized if we fly flags, and we have to stand firm," said Singh.
Kamloops' banner policy has been the subject of complaints in the past upon the display of pro-life banners.
"Pride comes, and then pro-life comes, and then pro-choice comes and then we either have to say they're all allowed or they're all not allowed," said Singh.
Councillor Tina Lange suggested the issue is overblown.
"I don't think we should start worrying about, 'What could happen? What could happen? What could happen?' We have had very, very few issues with our banner policy. It's going to similar," said Lange. "For each group to come before council to get their flag approved: no, thank-you. This is not a political decision; this is an administrative decision."
Deputy Corporate Officer Stephanie Nichols says staff will rely on the counsel of legal experts if a sensitive issue ever comes up.
"When the standards and limitations were added to the council policy that we're suggesting modeling the combined policy off of, we did consult legal counsel and tried to draft some language that would provide that guidance to staff. But on applications that came in under a new combined policy, I believe we would seek legal guidance if it was a sensitive matter."
Installation of the flagpole is budgeted at $4,000.
There are two flagpoles currently installed directly in front of City Hall, displaying the flags of Canada and the City of Kamloops.
Staff say they will soon bring forward a recommendation for a third flagpole near the building, this one displaying the British Columbia flag.
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