Halifax police seek public's help as they investigate more vandalism of Pride flags
HALIFAX — Police in Halifax confirmed Monday they are investigating two more cases where Pride flags were allegedly torn down by youths.
Those incidents are in addition to an RCMP report on May 5 that said three youths were motivated by hate when they burned a Pride flag outside their school in Upper Tantallon, N.S., in late April, prompting mischief charges against all three.
The recent spate of hate-motivated vandalism has some in Nova Scotia's LGBTQ community on edge.
Susanne Litke, former chair of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, said she was at her home in the north end of Halifax on April 5 when someone knocked on her door around 3 p.m. She opened it to discover her Pride flag had been torn into 18 pieces.
Halifax Regional Police issued a statement Monday saying four suspects in the destruction of her flag, spotted fleeing by a witness, are boys believed to be between 10 and 12 years old.
"With this recent barrage of hate crimes against our flags, our community, we feel that ... we're moving backwards," Litke said in an interview Monday.
"Hatred has been expressed towards the LGBTQ community for a long time, but ... it hasn't been expressed in this outward kind of way until permission was given for such talk and actions. We're seeing this happening across the U.S. with all kinds of laws being passed to quiet down (sexual orientation and gender identity) discussions."
Meanwhile, police in Halifax said they are also investigating a complaint from the Spryfield area, where two people in their early teens allegedly ripped down a Pride flag outside a home on May 7. No other details were provided.
Cynthia Sweeney, who leads the PFlag Canada chapter in Halifax, said the national non-profit group has noticed an increase in this kind of hate-motivated crime.
"It's a little unbelievable that only four months into 2023, we've seen such a rise in intolerance across Canada," said Sweeney, whose organization helps anyone wherever they are on their journey around gender identity and sexual orientation. "We need allies to be speaking out about bigotry and misinformation and hate."
Emma Stanley, a transgender inclusion consultant in Halifax, said she wasn't surprised by the three most recent incidents.
"We're trying to make an enormous change in our own culture, and it has not been that long since I was in high school getting beat up for being not straight," said Stanley, who works with Sweeney at Simply Good Form Inc., an inclusion training company.
"We have made progress. But that progress, especially in Canada, is really surface level ... It's something we're having to work on all the time."
Const. John MacLeod, spokesman for Halifax Regional Police, said investigators believe the destruction of the three Pride flags — symbols of the LGBTQ community — was motivated by hate.
Meanwhile, members of the Halifax Regional Police hate crime unit are asking for the public's help as their investigation continues.
"There's no information at this point to suggest that any of the three cases are related," MacLeod said in an interview.
"We recognize that these are harmful to people in our community ... We want to let the community know that they should contact us if they encounter incidents like this."
On Wednesday morning, members of the LGBTQ community will gather outside Halifax City Hall where a Pride flag will be raised in honour of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. During the event, Pflag Canada is expected to release an open letter that highlights the rising tide of misinformation, hate speech and violence directed at LGBTQ community.
As well, Litke said plans are in the works to have her repaired Pride flag, stitched together with gold thread, displayed at the event.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2023.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press