Almonte residents angered by mayor’s decision not to lower flag for Humboldt

Many Almonte residents are upset after their mayor denied requests to lower the flag outside the Almonte Community Centre and Curling Rink in honour of the Humboldt Broncos. 

Requests started streaming in to the municipal office on Wednesday after residents noticed none of the town’s flags had been lowered. When nothing changed, people took their outcry to social media. 

“Because I am so involved in hockey, I just can’t believe someone wouldn’t put it down. I just find it hard to believe,” said Kevin McCartney, a hockey dad who lives nearby in Pakenham said.

By Friday morning, someone had lowered the flag outside the arena. It was back up to normal height hours later, only to go back to half-mast on Saturday.

The flagpole is easily accessible so residents believe someone in the community took it upon themselves to pay tribute to the Broncos. 

“I’m embarrassed, but I’m happy people are getting it right. But it’s the people who are getting it right, not the government,” McCartney said. 

Mississippi Mills Mayor Shaun McLaughlin cited a municipal policy for why the town’s flag could not be lowered. He said that tribute is reserved for sad events in the community and that the crash in Humboldt, through tragic, does not fit.

“None of the eight municipalities that make up Lanark County lowered their flags,” the mayor said. “Mississippi Mills is the only place where people chose to make an issue of it. We have a policy for lowering the flag. The Humboldt tragedy doesn’t fit. We all grieve for the families and community members of that Saskatchewan town.”

Jan Maydan, a community activist and Pakenham Ramsay & Almonte Taxpayers’ Advocacy Coalition (PRATAC) member said she can’t find that policy anywhere. 

“I don’t think the policy exists,” she said. “We’ve asked for it.” 

The mayor elaborated in a blog post on Friday saying “The flag policy – which the mayor cannot arbitrarily change – exists so that we have scope. If not, how would we know what calamities to respond to?,” he wrote. The day after the Saskatchewan catastrophe, 23 schoolchildren died in a bus crash in India. Should we lover the flag for them?”

Despite the cited policy, Maydan thinks the mayor should have lowered the flag anyway. 

“People want it. People were asking for it. There was a huge outcry,” she said. “Who did it hurt? It didn’t hurt anyone to do it. Nobody will be phoning up complaining.”

As of Sunday afternoon, the flag outside the county office had also been lowered. 

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