By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Residents respond to flag displayed on semi truck parked on 13th Avenue 

A Confederate battle flag adorning the front of a tractor trailer truck caused a stir in Invermere last week.

The flag was first noticed by local residents on 13th Avenue on the morning of Sunday, August 15, and photos of it were posted on social media not long after. Multiple residents wrote or called the Pioneer, expressing disgust and dismay, pointing out that the flag had appeared the same weekend as Columbia Valley Pride’s Pride on Wheels event, and was only two blocks away from the rainbow crosswalk outside J.A. Laird Elementary School. One explained that the issue was first brought to her attention by one of her children, who had seen the truck driving around Invermere’s downtown.

The Confederate battle flag was used by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of North Virginia during the American Civil War, a war fought, at least in part, over slavery (which at that time was still practiced in most Confederate states). In more recent decades, stretching back at least to the Civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the flag has become notoriously contentious, with many Americans (and others around the world) viewing it as a symbol of racism, fascism and white supremacy. Defenders of the flag deny the connection to racism and maintain the flag is a general symbol of the South. In an oft-cited Pew report in 2011, the number of Americans with a negative view of the flag was triple the number that had a positive view of the flag. 

“The thought that other people visiting Invermere may have seen the flag, and made assumptions and associations about our town based on seeing it here, should be almost as upsetting to us as the very fact of seeing it here in the first place,” says concerned resident, Sarah Bourke.

The Pioneer contacted the RCMP, who outlined that they are aware of the controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag, but that there is nothing they can do in this case, as it is not illegal to display the flag.

The District of Invermere had received a complaint about the flag, but as there is no bylaw in Invermere against displaying the flag, there was not much the district could do in terms of trying to have the flag removed.

“We are aware of the vehicle,” Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young told the Pioneer, adding it was a major concern, given the location of the truck (it was parked almost right beside ongoing municipal sewer upgrades on 13th Avenue), that the flag may possibly have belonged to contractors doing the upgrades.

“We did some investigation on it and we have ascertained that the vehicle has no association with Marwest or any of the other contractors doing the work,” said Young, speaking on Friday, Aug. 20, adding that as far as the district understands the flag belongs to an individual visiting family or friends on 13th Avenue, and that the truck owner was scheduled to leave the Valley on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Several witnesses called the Pioneer to confirm that the truck and flag did indeed leave on Saturday.

“For me personally, to see the battle flag of the Confederacy displayed in our town is offensive… I was deeply concerned when I heard the report and we took this very seriously,” says Young.

Invermere mayor, Al Miller, echoed Young’s comments, saying “certainly we were quite concerned, especially when it was so close to our job site. We jumped on it right away,” adding “do I agree with Confederate flag? No I don’t. But we don’t have a bylaw in place dealing with that.”

Columbia Valley Pride explained that the organization has no evidence that the arrival of the Confederate flag was purposefully timed to coincide with its event.

“Prior to being contacted by the Pioneer, Columbia Valley Pride was unaware of the flag , and have no reason to believe it was placed intentionally as a threat to our Pride on Wheels event over that same weekend. That said, it is deeply concerning to have this flag surface at any time anywhere,” says Columbia Valley Pride president, Bronwen Poultney, in an email to the Pioneer. “This incident demonstrates that action is required to promote anti-racism and reconciliation initiatives in our community. It highlights the importance of Pride events and the work that our society is doing to create safety for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth. This is why we say “Black Trans Lives Matter”. Thank you to the allies who spoke up. We need your voices and your support now more than ever.”