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Attempted burning of Pride flag in Stittsville under investigation

The Pride flag was one of three flags flown in rotation at the Goulbourn Museum before its flag pole was pulled down around 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Goulbourn Museum/Facebook - image credit)
The Pride flag was one of three flags flown in rotation at the Goulbourn Museum before its flag pole was pulled down around 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Goulbourn Museum/Facebook - image credit)
The Pride flag was one of three flags flown in rotation at the Goulbourn Museum before its flag pole was pulled down around 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.
The Pride flag was one of three flags flown in rotation at the Goulbourn Museum before its flag pole was pulled down around 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

The Pride flag was one of three flags flown in rotation outside the Goulbourn Museum before its flag pole was pulled down around 1 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Goulbourn Museum/Facebook)

Ottawa police are investigating an incident of "hate-related mischief" after two suspects appeared to try to light a Pride flag on fire outside the Goulbourn Museum in Stittsville last month.

When staff arrived at the small community museum on the morning of Jan. 19, they noticed the flagpole outside was lying on the ground and the rainbow flag that had been flying from it was gone.

Surveillance camera footage from the previous night shows two people arriving in a dark, two-door sedan around 1 a.m., according to museum board chair Tanya Hein.

The video appears to show the suspects attempting to set the flag alight, but Hein said they didn't seem very well prepared.

"They tried to light a sock on fire. I'm not sure if the plan was sort of to toss it at the flag and light it that way. Who knows? They did leave the sock behind," she said.

When they failed to ignite the sock, the suspects tried to pull the flag down. When that attempt also failed, they attached the flagpole's rope to their car and pulled down the entire pole.

'It's really disheartening'

"I was really disappointed," she said, adding similar incidents have occurred around Stittsville and elsewhere.

"It's really disheartening to see that in our community because Stittsville is an increasingly diverse community, and we really want to be a safe and welcoming space where people feel that they're represented, that their story is being told and that they can come there anytime."

In addition to the singed sock, the museum's executive director Tracey Donaldson said the suspects also left behind a water bottle and $20 cash.

According to an Ottawa police media release issued Thursday, the suspects in the "hate-related mischief" set the flag on fire and were taking pictures or filming the incident with a cellphone.

Hein said the surveillance video she saw doesn't show the flag in flames. The force's hate crime unit is investigating but declined to clarify the matter, police said.

Flag to be replaced

The museum flew three flags in rotation: a Canadian flag, an Every Child Matters flag in honour of victims of residential schools, and a Pride flag.

The city will pay to replace the pole, Hein said, and the Diefenbunker Cold War Museum in Carp is donating a new Pride flag. Hein said she's pleased with the outpouring of support, including a social media post about the incident.

"That's sort of the silver lining in all this. It was a really horrible crime obviously targeting a segment of our population. But the support and ... the general condemnation of the act has been really uplifting," she said.

Meanwhile police are trying to identify the two people shown in the surveillance video. They are described by police as two slim men wearing dark clothing and driving a dark, two-door sedan with an unknown Ontario licence plate.

The Goulbourn Museum, which displays local artifacts and histories of families in the area, operates out of the former Goulbourn Township Hall building on Huntley Road in south Stittsville, which was erected in 1872.

Anyone with information about the flag incident is asked to call the Ottawa police hate crime unit at 613-236-1222, extension 5015, or email hatebiascrime@ottawapolice.ca. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).