The rain did not deter a small group from gathering outside the Nationswest Field House to vocalize their discontent with the facility’s closure and its occupants.
Signs on the building note it is closed to the public for a private rental from Oct. 29 to Nov. 13. This is to accommodate the ‘Battle for Canada,’ which is being hosted by the Harvest Church Network and the Canadian Revival Alliance from Nov. 1 to the 10.
But the values of the group being espoused in a public facility has drawn the ire of many North Battlefords residents — specifically their alleged anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs. A post made on social media by an avid user of the facility has drawn hundreds of shares and comments skewed heavily in opposition to the event.
“They have the right to voice their opinion but no one has the right to push hate,” said Bobbisue Thompson, president of the local pride organization who hosted the protest Sunday. “We have been fighting for equality for over a century and we are not going backwards.”
Equally as curious about the entire situation was Kelly Waters. While she acknowledged the field house was set to be closed for three weeks as a cost-saving measure in 2018, and the city was making $25,000 off the booking, found it “a little odd” they allowed the rental during what she believed to be a high traffic time of year as the weather grows poor.
She was equality unimpressed with the occupants’ beliefs, saying the city has fought hard in recent years to make strides on awareness and acceptance for the local LGBTQ+ community and that it felt “like a slap in the face that this would be allowed.”
“The field house itself, they are very inclusive. We have had events here and they have accommodated the need for gender-neutral spaces for washrooms … but the way it is prohibiting the public from using it is not okay,” she added.
Arlene Tootoosis was among the crowd holding signs and waving rainbow flags. She turned out to express her frustration with the prolonged closure, as she routinely brings her son to play soccer, stay out trouble and socialize with his peers while she works out.
“I think they should have rented a place that is not used by the public as often. Every evening it is packed with volleyball, soccer, and people on the track,” she said.
Mayor Ryan Bater previously told battlefordsNOW the city rents out facilities on a regular basis to organizations of all strips — sports, cultural, political and religious — and does not and cannot legally discriminate against any organization. He said the field house was already scheduled to close for three weeks, but would only be closed for two now that the renter came forward.
“The net effect is that there is an additional week the field house is available to users,” he said.
Plans were and remain in place to give individuals with memberships an additional three weeks of usage to compensate for the lost time, he said.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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