Recent harassment of Napanee Pride points to plight faced by 2SLGBTQ+ community

“Every One Is Welcome Here,” reads a banner paid for by Greater Napanee Pride. The hashtag #ProudForManyReasons is a playful nod to the Town of Greater Napanee’s motto “Greater for Many Reasons.” Kingstonist file photo.

While many feel that Napanee is an inclusive town and community, it’s likely that not everyone is aware of the difficulties 2SLGTBQ+ residents face regularly. These include the harassment hurled at the local 2SLGBTQ+ community recently when they attempted to address Town Council, according to Greater Napanee Pride.

Greater Napanee Pride made a scheduled deputation to Council at its Regular Meeting this week on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Though it didn’t play out as well as the group hoped, another story unfolded in parallel as the group faced daunting obstacles to even be present in the meeting room. 

After posting to social media about their upcoming deputation, Greater Napanee Pride received not only positive messages of support but also numerous harassing responses. Many were from local individuals, but the number from outsiders across the province and even the country was surprising, the local Pride organization reported. Some of the people who posted threatened to destroy the Pride crosswalk in town and disrupt the Council meeting at which Pride was presenting its deputation.

Napanee Pride’s original post was shared to an online social media group focused on Greater Napanee. This led to a troubling situation for the administrators of that group, who are responsible for moderating posts and comments to ensure that all posted content is in keeping with the group’s priorities.

The managers of the online community said, “We removed the comments due to the bigotry and hate that they were conveying [and] additionally we stopped additional comments from being able to be made; however [we] kept the initial post on the group so the content itself would be still available to the public…. We absolutely support LGBTQ2S+. As admins we do our best to remove any bigotry and hate from the group [and] additionally Facebook’s automatic assist removed some comments as well for the same reason.”

Some of the tamer negative comments survive in screenshot form and included comments by a number of people identified as local residents and local business owners.

Negative and derogatory responses came from well outside of the Greater Napanee area, including from Toronto. It is unclear why those people are in the local online community group, but their comments certainly seemed motivated by bigotry and hate.

As it turns out, the post by Greater Napanee Pride was also copied and posted to a page called “1 Million March for Children,” a group that has become familiar for its protests against what it calls SOGI123 (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). Some people who posted in that group encouraged others to comment negatively on the original post.

Reached for comment on Wednesday, Vice Chair of Napanee Pride Tiffany Lloyd first expressed her thoughts on the Council meeting.

“I think we got some much-needed clarification on the concepts of restrictive zones for banners and time limits on art installations such as our crosswalk, picnic tables, and the Greater Napanee sign. However, we must see how these issues unfold in practice,” Lloyd said.

“That being said,” she continued, “we are concerned about how much money the town is taking from non-profit organizations like ourselves under the heading of service and fairness. Non-profits are the backbone of community engagement, funded by those who believe in our cause. Yet the town absorbs a significant portion of these donations under various fees, diminishing our impact and reach.”

Asked about her reaction to the argument made by Councillor Mike Schenk — who suggested that sports teams coming to town have to pay fees to use the amenities and that all other groups should, therefore, have to do the same — Lloyd called the comparison “unfair.”

“Equating the fees charged to out-of-town sports teams with those imposed on non-profits overlooks the intrinsic value and contributions non-profit organizations bring to fulfilling the town’s own strategic priorities, which emphasize community engagement and pride. Yet the financial barriers being erected for non-profits contradict this vision, potentially stifling the very initiatives that bring it to life,” she explained.

For example, Lloyd shared that Napanee Pride spent over $10,000 on paint and banners and flags for the community and gave nearly the same to the Town in fees to use Town amenities. Meanwhile, Pride also brought an estimated 100,000 tourism dollars into the pockets of local businesses.

Lloyd emphasized, “We are not asking for a free pass. We’re advocating for a partnership where the Town acknowledges the value of non-profits in fostering a vibrant, engaged, and inclusive community. It’s about support, not taxation.”

Noting that the Town gets the credit and benefits from the economic and social stimulus brought about by community events, Lloyd pointed out that conversely, “the financial strain on the organizations behind these initiatives continues to grow. It’s time to reevaluate the town’s support system for these vital community builders.” 

Asked about the online harassment, Lloyd said it is par for the course.

“While there were vocal online threats, ranging from damaging the crosswalk to disrupting the Council meeting, these thankfully did not materialize into actions,” she said.

“The loudest keyboard warriors do not represent the majority or the willingness to act beyond the anonymity of their screens. Greater Napanee Pride would like to show that small-town Pride is possible and can flourish. You can be out and safe in rural Ontario, but the truth is, in today’s climate, anywhere could be unsafe, so we have to be cautious.”

Recently, in fact, a Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) document obtained by CBC revealed that “trans and drag communities in Canada have been the target of several online threats and real-world intimidation tactics in recent months… Anti-2SLGBTQl+ narratives remain a common theme in violent rhetoric espoused by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Freedom Movement, and networks such as Diagolon and QAnon.” The document also pointed out that these movements posed a threat of extreme violence in Canada.

Other Pride members attended the Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, meeting of the Napanee Council to ensure Lloyd would feel safe in numbers. Lloyd said she is well aware of the potential danger she and others in the 2SLGBTQ+ community are forced to contend with, and that it simply underscores the importance of her organization’s mission.

“Our initiatives, from the crosswalk to our banners, are more than symbols; they are beacons of hope and inclusivity, demonstrating the importance and strength of our presence in the face of adversity — and we need to protect them,” she said.

Other than Pride, it is difficult to pinpoint any Napanee group that has even attempted to create and display banners on the downtown light posts — one of the things that brought the group to address Council this week in the first place. The Royal Canadian Legion, who are not charged a fee, have banners erected honouring veterans who lived in Napanee.

Perhaps ironically, that project began as an idea of Lloyd’s in 2018 when she was the Executive Director of the Downtown Napanee BIA.

One Group, Autism Network Lennox & Addington County, has had banners posted in Conservation Park. Still, because that group’s awareness month is at the same time as the Veteran banners are raised, they are not posted on Dundas Street, according to Autism Network Executive Director Mandy Stapely.

No one on Napanee Council accepted the request for an interview. However, several councillors responded by email:

Councillor Bill Martin wrote, “My own personal feelings on any matter are made at council and how I vote on motions.”

Councillor Bob Norrie also said by email that his “vote and recorded comments” spoke for him.

Councillor Dave Pinnell advised, “Please contact the Mayor for comments.”

Deputy Mayor Brian Calver’s email reply directed all questions to Kylie Huffman, Community Engagement and Communications Clerk for the Town.

Councillor Mike Schenk, Councillor Angela Hicks, and Mayor Terry Richardson did not respond to multiple interview requests by email, phone, and text.

An online list of local resources for those in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, as compiled by Napanee Pride, can be found on the Greater Napanee Pride resources page.

2 thoughts on “Recent harassment of Napanee Pride points to plight faced by 2SLGBTQ+ community

  • It is very true that non-profits create a warm feeling of community and run wonderful events for all. Bravo to Napanee PRIDE folx who raised thousands of dollars for those attractive flags and crosswalk which beautify the town and make residents and tourists feel safe & welcomed. Should they have had to pay to give that service to Napanee? We had assumed Napanee Council had paid, and it made us, as outsiders, respect Napanee!

    -J Jerreat

  • The decision made by this council affects not only the LGBTQ2+ Community. It also affects different flags, like the Métis and Inuit flag for truth and reconciliation and the Ukrainian flag for the war. I certainly see that this council (all but two members) are out of touch in 2023. It will send a negative message for inclusivity and will harm investment.
    I certainly feel sorry for our children.
    The adults in charge are failing them.

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