Surrey Pride once again took over Central City Plaza.
The annual event was back in person for the first time since 2019 and president Martin Rooney said he was “stunned” by the turnout.
“That was the biggest concern coming out of COVID, how many people were actually going to come out,” he told the Now-Leader during the event outside Central City Mall in Whalley on Saturday (June 25).
“When we made the plans for the festival we were in COVID protocol, and protocols were in place. So instead of 100 booths, we cut it down to 40.”
“I still think we have as many people on the plaza now as we did at the end of Pride in 2019.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum was asked by @MR1_ if he'd commit to flying the Pride flag at city hall if re-elected. This was his response at Saturday's @SurreyPrideBC Festival.
STORY by @laurenpcollins1: https://t.co/PBvpZTGuO6 pic.twitter.com/HjGTjSBTr9
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) June 27, 2022
While on the stage for the opening remarks, Rooney took the opportunity to ask Mayor Doug McCallum if he and his slate would fly the Pride flag in 2023 if they’re re-elected in the Oct. 15 civic election.
“Are you willing to commit to our community today if elected, reelected and your slate is re-elected that you’ll fly the Pride flag in June next year?” he asked.
McCallum, who is running for mayor once again with his Safe Surrey Coalition, said, “Let’s put it this way, we have a policy in the city that’s been for 30 years and it’s to every organization that comes.
“We have over 15 requests every year to fly different flags and organizations. Our policy has been the same for many, many years. And what we do in the city is fly only the three government flags … We need stay with that policy to be fair with everybody.”
To that, Rooney replied, “Thank you, sir, so the answer is no.”
However, two other mayoral candidates and a current sitting city council asked Rooney for a chance to also answer the question.
Brenda Locke, a current city councillor and a mayoral candidate for Surrey Connect, said “absolutely.”
“Love is love. We will be putting a fourth flag pole and that flag pole will be for community … so every June we will be Pride because look around, what’s not to celebrate?”
Linda Annis, a current Surrey First councillor, also said “absolutely.”
“Not only should the Pride flag be flying during the month of June but other organizations as well. We need to respect the citizens of Surrey and we need to honour you folks. I can’t see any better way than doing it.”
And Jinny Sims, who recently announced her bid to run for mayor under Surrey Forward, said “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”
“Love is love and everyone needs to be celebrated. So no ‘we’ll think about it.’ No maybe, no ifs. Yes the flag will fly like other cities across Canada.”
Asking Rooney about the question afterward, he told the Now-Leader that people need to know where candidates stand going into the election.
“Although it’s not the largest issue in this election, it’s still one huge issue we’ve been fighting since 2014,” he noted.
“The intention behind that was to get an honest answer, and Mayor McCallum gave us an honest answer.”
In 2014, Surrey city council voted to keep an existing policy in place allowing only the three government flags to fly outside city hall.
Then in 2016, the Pride flag was flown at half-mast for about two weeks in memory of those killed at the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla. on June 12, 2016.
Rooney added it’s 2022 and if Surrey is going to be the largest city in B.C. — and one of the largest in Canada — “it’s time for all the marginalized communities to find the one thing they have in common and come together and create a new majority.”
“I think it’s very important, particularly after what happened in the U.S. yesterday in the Supreme Court,” said Rooney, referring to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, allowing U.S. states to ban abortion.
“Fortunately for us in Canada it’s a slower process, but actually it can happen. We’re one election away from all of our rights being takeaway from us.
“They should never have had to have been given to us in the first place. We’re all human beings and we all have the right to exist.”