THREE RIVERS — Matt Clendinning’s recent incident with his café’s Pride flag has encouraged him to help the rest of the community to fly the rainbow flag “as proudly as I do.”
The owner of The Lucky Bean cafe in Montague plans to buy about 100 Pride flags to give to businesses across the community. He also hopes to receive support from Three Rivers council, who he addressed during a regular meeting on April 12.
“It wouldn’t have felt right to not speak up,” he said.
Clendinning has always used his business, which also has a location in Stratford, as a way to offer a welcoming space. One way he does that is by flying a Pride flag outside to show unity with LGBTQ+ community members, he said.
A few weeks ago he took the flag down temporarily because it was becoming tattered and needed replacing. Before the new flag went up, Clendinning was ending his workday and was approached by a passerby.
“You finally took the gay flag down,” the passerby said to him.
The passerby’s tone was congratulatory, and he made a point of saying he hadn’t supported Clendinning’s business up to that point because of the Pride flag. Clendinning didn’t entertain the interaction for very long, but it has stuck with him ever since.
“I was just completely shocked and taken aback that that kind of thing would be said,” he told council. “That’s just not a very good way to word that.”
Clendinning intends to submit a few requests for decisions to Three Rivers for ways it could show support either in Montague or across the municipality. This could include flying Pride flags at town-owned buildings or painting a rainbow-coloured crosswalk somewhere (Clendinning recommends at the intersection near his cafe on Main Street).
In 2016, the former council of Montague had declined a request from Pride P.E.I. to fly a Pride flag. Clendinning wasn’t living on P.E.I. at the time, and Montague has since amalgamated along with neighbouring communities into Three Rivers.
“Moving here, I know that it’s a rural community and I know that there’s some potential, leftover old-school mentalities,” Clendinning said.
He’ll be submitting some requests this week, so they’ll likely go before council in the near future. A few members of council were in full support of finding ways to show unity with its LGBTQ+ residents.
“We’re all a family. They’re our sons, they’re our daughters, they’re our friends. It’s time to move forward, folks,” Coun. Larry Creed said.
Mayor Edward MacAulay said the presentation was timely and that he hopes council will support Clendinning’s requests, considering Three Rivers is increasingly becoming home to more diverse communities.
“This is the kind of community that Three Rivers is going to become,” MacAulay said.
Clendinning had mostly addressed council as a formality and to share his experience; he plans to buy flags for businesses on his own initiative. Each one costs about $20, and he’s looking into sourcing them locally if possible, he said.
“It’s very simple. It’s just a flag,” he said. “And not to belittle it, but if they can’t get behind that then we’ve got bigger problems.”