A queer married couple is receiving overwhelming support from their local community after Pride flags hung outside their newly opened business in Nova Scotia were vandalized multiple times last month.
Shortly before the opening of their store on Dec. 7, 2022, Sue Littleton and her wife Candice Zaina found the rainbow flag they hung on their storefront ripped down. They didn’t think much of the incident at the time. The newlyweds had just moved to Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, and set up the Bee’s Knees General Store and Bakery together. They decided to replace the flag.
But then, the replacement flag was torn down three more times over the course of the month—most recently on Christmas Eve. This latest time, the person ripped down their Pride flag and the flag of the local Indigenous community, Mi’kmaq Nation, and put a pile of human feces on them. A flag their friend put up in solidarity at his shop down the road was also torn down that day.
Littleton and Zaina reported the latest incidents to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who are currently investigating them as possible hate crimes. Littleton claims that the RCMP told her they would increase patrols in the area at night. In an email to the Halifax Examiner, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce said, “The matter is still open and under investigation.”
The local community quickly rallied around the couple, with many reaching out to express their gratitude for their store’s existence. The Gay-Straight Alliance at the Middleton Regional High School sent them a card to express their appreciation at having queer adults in the community to look up to. One of their customers sent them stickers of the bakery’s logo.
“We had a parent bring their newly out teen into the shop yesterday. They drove nearly an hour to come support us,” the couple posted on their business’s official Facebook page. “The parent thanked us for helping them to show their kid that queer joy is possible. THAT is why we do this.”
Despite the incidents, the pair say they have no intention of hiding their queerness, and intend to continue flying their Pride flag. The two say it is important for them to represent their community and signal their store as a safe space. “Candice and I are both in our 40s and have been out for decades, and have experienced all the possible backlash. We’re pretty firm in our stance on being, as we call it, queer elders so kids know they’re not alone,” Littleton told the Examiner.
The couple has also said they are open to having a dialogue with whoever is responsible for the incidents. “We invite whoever is doing this to come in for a coffee and a treat,” they wrote on their store’s Facebook page. “We would be happy to sit at our gathering table with you to talk in a civilized way about why flying this flag is important to us.”
Opening the Bee’s Knees General Store and Bakery was a dream come true for the couple. Littleton’s father is from the area and she spent a lot of time there as a kid. After the two women married, they sold their house in Hamilton, Ontario, and moved to Lawrencetown to open their store, which was an immediate hit with the local community. They sell miscellaneous goods with a focus on local produce and locally handcrafted wares, and operate an espresso bar.
“I respect the right that people have their own beliefs, but not at the cost of my human rights,” said Littleton to the Examiner. “That I have a right to be safe in my home and in my business and that I have a right to create a safe space for other people.”