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'You had us at hello,' Coquitlam mayor tells Best students for Pride flag, event

The Coquitlam high school’s Gay–Straight Alliance (GSA), led by teacher Megan Leslie, delivered a powerful presentation before council on Monday afternoon.

Students and staff from Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Secondary — and their supporters in the LGBTQ2S+ community — burst into applause today (Monday) as each member of city council spoke in favour of Pride.

The school’s Gay–Straight Alliance (GSA), led by teacher Megan Leslie, delivered a powerful presentation before council-in-committee to ask two things: The city raise the Pride flag outside city hall in June, and organize and host a Pride event in the summer.

During their delegation, the students cited a story by the Tri-City News and referred to the city’s recently adopted Business Plan, which lists Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as a top priority and theme for the year.

They also pointed to the city’s Strategic Plan, stating how a Pride event would meet its goals to promote “Safe Neighbourhoods,” “Local Economy,” “Healthy Community” and “Excellence in City Governance” as part of Coquitlam’s vision.

The students, who asked not to be photographed for privacy, also named Tri-City organizations and leaders backing their requests for flying the flag and a Pride event. They include:

  • Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce
  • Coquitlam–Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson
  • Coquitlam–Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly
  • Coquitlam–Metro Ford Soccer
  • Coquitlam Teachers Association
  • Coquitlam Express
  • SHARE Family and Community Services
  • Austin Heights Business Improvement Association


Meanwhile, Port Moody–Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo, a former Coquitlam city councillor, and Coquitlam SD43 Trustee Jennifer Blatherwick were in the audience to hear the Best presentation, which began with students handing out Pride flags to the elected officials.

Mayor Richard Stewart, who afterward posed for photos with Best reps in front of the newly displayed Pride flag at the top of the council chambers, thanked the students for their passion to make the city more inclusive.

Noting he is the father of a member of the LGBTQ community, “I want to start with, ‘You had us at hello,’” he said.

“Our council is united in this issue.”

The mayor also recognized newly elected Coun. Matt Djonlic for bringing the topic to council’s attention. In turn, Djonlic thanked the students for their “courage” to speak before council and push for action.

Still, while Coun. Dennis Marsden praised the GSA, he also read out part of a letter from a resident opposing their Pride flag and event bids; Marsden read out part of his response to the naysayer.

“Everyone is welcome here,” Marsden said, adding, “I have two grown children. I don’t care who they love.”

Coun. Brent Asmundson spoke about being the dad of a son who identifies as being in the LGBTQ2S+ community, while Coun. Steve Kim harkened to the 1980s when he was at Best and Centennial and there was “no safe space” for gay or queer students.

Coun. Teri Towner said she championed years ago for the Pride crosswalk, which was later painted in front of city hall, and newly elected Coun. Robert Mazzarolo urged the Best students to get involved in politics.

“Do me a favour and teach the rest of your colleagues that getting involved is important. We need your voices; we need you to speak up.”

Coun. Craig Hodge, a former Best student, said the high school has a long history of activism. When he attended the school, it was protesting the nuclear weapons testing in the Aleutian Islands.

“You are the leaders of tomorrow and you’re showing that by being here today,” Hodge said.


Meanwhile, in a follow-up presentation, the city’s EDI manager, Manisha Dutta, said the municipality is launching Celebrate Diversity Month in April that will include decals at the entrance to civic facilities, including park washrooms at more than 110 locations, and street banners.

In June, the street banners in Town Centre will have Pride-specific flags to mark Pride Month; they will be installed at city hall, Town Centre Park and at other high-visibility locations.