Abbotsford mayor not sure why he was endorsed by anti-SOGI group

Henry Braun notes he has taken heat for raising Pride Flag, says inclusion is important

Abbotsford’s mayor says he doesn’t know how he ended up being endorsed by an anti-SOGI group, noting that he had supported the decision to fly the Pride Flag at city hall in 2015.

Henry Braun’s name was on a list being distributed by the Canadian Council for Faith and Family, a group campaigning against SOGI 123, a group of educational materials intended to foster inclusion of gay and transgender children in British Columbia’s schools.

Braun said Monday that he had never spoken to representatives of the group, and doesn’t know how he came to be on it. By mid-day Monday, the endorsement list had disappeared from the web. Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz also distanced herself from the endorsement.

When asked if the endorsement was warranted, Braun said: “I’m certainly not phobic of anybody. It’s my role in life and as the mayor of Abbotsford to embrace and bring people together, all voices, all people, and I think I’ve demonstrated that over the last four years.”

Braun said he tries to leave school issues to the school board, and said he hasn’t familiarized himself with the SOGI materials.

But he added: “It’s ongoing work to ensure there are safe places and rich learning environments for all our students and teachers and I leave that with [the school board].”

“I don’t go jumping into their backyard because I don’t want them jumping into my backyard on certain things.”

Braun noted he has taken heat for raising the Pride Flag, with that issue one of the reasons activist Gerda Peachey decided to run for mayor this year.

“People who are different are often marginalized and sometimes demonized and I feel that’s wrong,” Braun said Monday.

Braun says there are those who misjudge his views because he goes to church and has spoken openly about his faith.

“I am a person of faith … I’ve referenced that a number of times. And I want to love my neighbour like myself and my neighbour isn’t the guy who lives next door. My neighbour is anybody who comes across my path.”

Regarding the gay pride flag and related festivities, at which he spoke, Braun said: “I felt I had a responsibility as a mayor to represent all people and I try to do that to the best of my ability.”

He continued: “There are some people who have criticized me because ‘You’re a man of faith, you’re Christian, you shouldn’t be voting for this or that.’ You wouldn’t believe the kind of emails I get from people who are right ticked off with me. But that comes with the territory. I try to embrace the whole community and demonstrate I care about every individual that lives here. And I do care. Some of the things that I see are not pretty. And I am totally opposed to that, for sure.”

Council subsequently amended its policy to create clearer rules that limits future flag rulings to those of countries with visiting dignitaries, sister cities of Abbotsford, the United Nations, and those required through contractual obligations.

But Fraser Valley Pride organizers said afterward they still felt supported by city hall.

The News asked mayoral candidates Trevor Eros and Eric Nyvall about whether they would support flying the Pride Flag, if the request came to the city. Eros said he would enthusiastically do so, while Nyvall said doing so would obligate the city to do so for all other groups. Nadine Snow said the city should follow the lead of the federal government relating to the flag, while Moe Gill issued a statement saying: “If we want a better and more peaceful community, it starts with treating everyone fairly and with dignity.”

RELATED: Pride Festival this weekend, but flag won’t fly

RELATED: Gerda Peachey to run for mayor’s seat


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

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