Let Pride flags fly

By Jenn Watt

We should all be disturbed and distressed by the recent theft of rainbow flags from the private property of a local business on Haliburton’s main street.

Christopher O’Mara, owner of Prettypaws Pet Boutique and Spa and vocal advocate for LGBTQ people, has once again had his business property targeted. On Sept. 6, two adults approached his salon with one standing on the street, appearing to keep watch, as the other tore down two rainbow flags, the rainbow design being a well-recognized symbol of LGBTQ Pride. Notably, the Canadian flags were untouched. A video of the theft captured by a security camera on the building shows that it took the two figures mere minutes to rip the flags down and flee the scene.

The impact of their actions will last much longer.

Stealing these flags sends a message that Haliburton is not a welcoming community for all. It is an ugly act – and one that does appear to be motivated by hate. This is not the first time that O’Mara has had to endure this kind of treatment and as an out, gay man, in the past, he’s also had homophobic slurs spray-painted on his shop.

We should all be horrified that this has happened again in this town – and again to this local businessperson who continues to provide a voice for people in the LGBTQ community, promoting acceptance and inclusivity.
After so much adversity, no one would blame O’Mara and his partner Adam Perecko if they decided that enough is enough, and they’re moving out of town. How many of us would feel comfortable sticking around if the same had happened to us?

But we are lucky in Haliburton that they aren’t choosing that route; O’Mara said this action has motivated him to set an example of being out and proud.

“I want readers to know that despite ill intentions from certain individuals, Haliburton is a community built on and surrounded by love and support,” he said.

And he’s right. For the few people who think they have the right to pull down Pride flags or spray-paint graffiti on local shops, there are so many more who embrace their neighbours and delight in symbols of acceptance and love.

Hundreds, if not thousands of us have taken part in Pride events over the years, have smiled when we saw Pride flags flown high, have posted LGBTQ ally stickers in our homes. Maybe now is the time to redouble those efforts and make visible our support of all people in our community – dust off your Pride T-shirt from last year, fill your social media feeds with messages of acceptance, and let those who would drag down the spirit of Haliburton know that hate isn’t tolerated here.