As protests against systemic racism show no sign of abating on both sides of the border, a Peterborough man has set his sights on the immediate removal of a Confederate flag displayed for a few years now at a Lakefield property.
Mark L. Craighead says over the course of the past few years, he noticed the Confederate flag flying — along with a Canadian flag — on a pole attached to a secondary structure at a Clementi Street property.
After attending the Black Lives Matter rally held recently in Peterborough, Craighead got to thinking about the flag, prompting him to write a Facebook post on June 5th that detailed his disgust.
“I want to walk over to the house, take the flag down and burn it on their lawn … I want to shoot a flaming arrow at it,” he wrote before asking his Facebook followers “What can I do in real life?’.
He subsequently posted about the flag again on Facebook on June 10th, prompting even more discussion.
There's a house in Lakefield flying a confederate flag. I spoke to the police about it, after doing the research to…
Since then, Craighead has reached out to Selwyn Mayor Andy Mitchell as well as each member of Peterborough city council, along with Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, asking that a local or national law banning the public display of Confederate flags be debated and passed.
Craighead also reached out to the Peterborough Police Service for clarification if the flag’s display is illegal in any way. According to Craighead, on Tuesday morning (June 16), a constable spoke with a resident living at the property who subsequently informed him he doesn’t intend to take the flag down.
kawarthaNOW.com reached out to a person listed as living at the Lakefield property for comment, but was unable to leave a message.
The Confederate flag has a long association with slavery. In 1860-61, 11 southern American states seceded from the United States to protect the institution of slavery, forming the Confederate States of America and precipitating the Civil War.
During the war, the Confederacy and its military forces used a variety of flags, but the flag that became most associated with the Confederacy was the so-called “battle flag” or “rebel flag”. Organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans adopted the flag as a symbol of southern heritage, but the flag also came to serve as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which caused it to be very popular with members of white supremacist groups.
“I’m trying to make as much noise as I can about this,” says Craighead. “It (the Confederate flag) is a symbol of hate. It’s a symbol of an ideology that has no place in our society.”
“People argue ‘Well, maybe it’s just heritage and pride.’ When NASCAR and the (United States) Marines (Corp) are banning it, and they’re taking reruns of the The Dukes of Hazzard off the air (the flag was decaled atop The General Lee, the TV show’s iconic 1969 Dodge Charger), well, now is the time to really think about how hard you want to hold on to this thing.”
Sections 318-319 of Canada’s Criminal Code makes it clear the use of Confederate flag is only illegal if it’s used to promote or incite hatred or violence against an identifiable group. The display of a Confederate flag on its own is not illegal, and no one is prohibited from purchasing one, owning one, or displaying it.
Since Craighead first saw the flag a few years back during family trips to Lakefield from his home in Peterborough’s East City, he says he has been offended by its display. His Facebook posts drew a number of responses with views on both sides of the fence expressed.
“There were a lot of suggestions — a lot of them perhaps not the most legal or safe,” Craighead says about his Facebook posts. “I was surprised by the kickback … people trying to make excuses for it and pulling the heritage thing.”
According to a June 13th story by the CBC, residents of some Ontario municipalities are petitioning their towns to ban the Confederate flag. In Collingwood, residents launched a petition objecting to Confederate flags being flown by two “Civil War re-enactors”, one of whom took down the flag in response to the petition, which garnered 28,000 signatures.