Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers from Oxford County stood in solidarity with the 2SLGBTQ+ community by raising the Progress Flag outside of their detachment in Woodstock on Thursday morning to mark the beginning of Pride Month.
The flag raising happened at the heels of controversy in Norwich, a township in Oxford County, whose council recently voted in favour of banning all non-government flags from flying on municipal property.
Norwich Councillor Alisha Stubbs was vehemently against the flag ban and stepped down from her position in protest of the decision.
It was Stubbs' request to proclaim June as Pride Month in Norwich that triggered one of her former colleagues to push the flag ban forward as a counter-motion.
Oxford County OPP are demonstrating a much different attitude towards Pride Month by raising the Progress Flag, which goes even further in its message of inclusivity.
The Progress Flag keeps the traditional rainbow stripes, but adds black and brown stripes to represent 2SLGBTQ+ people of colour, and baby blue, pink, and white stripes to incorporate the transgender community. Together, all of these stripes form an arrow-like-design, which depicts the idea that there is still a long way to go in creating an inclusive society.
Oxford County OPP took their show of Pride Month support a step further, with officers switching out their usual black and white police patches for something more colourful.
OPP West Region Commander Chief Superintendent Dwight Thib wore a special Pride Month patch as he joined the Oxford detachment for Thursday's event. Other officers in the community may be seen with the same accessory, according to police.
"The OPP wants to remind the public that theft of, or vandalism to these flags are criminal acts and will not be tolerated," said a statement from Oxford County OPP. "Any individual who engages in any criminal act may face a criminal charge."
This warning comes about a year after charges were laid in connection to Pride Flags being stolen by multiple people in Norwich Township.
"The OPP's primary role is to ensure public safety and to keep the peace," the police statement continued. "The OPP remains committed to keeping communities safe while respecting the dignity, civil liberties, and well-being of all people. The OPP also respects the right of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."