Students and teachers from Rossland Summit School came out to celebrate the opening of Rossland’s rainbow crosswalk on Tuesday, Sept. 5. (Chelsea Novak/Rossland News)

Rejected rainbow crosswalk sparks community support in Merritt

Merritt comes together following the rejection of a proposed rainbow crosswalk near a school

A decision by city council to reject a proposed rainbow crosswalk near a school in Merritt, B.C., has led community members to offer other locations for the colourful symbol of inclusion, says a high school teacher involved in the project.

Students in LGBTQ and Indigenous clubs at Merritt Secondary have been planning for years to have a crosswalk painted to promote inclusivity, but when the school district took the proposal to the city last week it was voted down by council.

RELATED: Merritt council rejects students’ rainbow crosswalk idea, lawyers offer space

Teacher Kati Spencer said she and the students were disappointed and frustrated at first.

“I had some righteous anger. Let’s put it that way,” she said. “We had so much support from the school board … we took it for granted that it was going to happen.”

The school district offered to pay for the rainbow’s installation and upkeep, and city staff recommended that council approve the proposal.

Mayor Neil Menard told council he was concerned that approving the rainbow crosswalk would set a precedent for other groups such as the hockey team and Rotary Club to request sidewalks or crosswalks be painted to reflect their organizations.

“I’m a bit worried that it may open a kind of a Pandora’s box for something like this, so I don’t support it. I can’t support it,” he said.

Asked in an interview if the decision could be interpreted as rejecting inclusivity, Menard said: “It has nothing to do with their lifestyle.”

“That’s their lifestyle and that’s all well and good, but they don’t have to take that … and make it obvious within the community, and push it on everybody else,” he said.

“We’re not exclusive of groups. It’s a good city. We’ve got great citizens. We’ve got a lot of citizens that don’t support that and didn’t want any crosswalks to be painted. They think it’s a distraction.”

While students may have lost the battle for the crosswalk, their efforts have gained wider support, Spencer said.

“This is now bigger than we imagined,” she said. “Coming out of this has actually been amazing, because it made all the support visible.”

A house across the street from the school has been adorned with rainbow curtains, a bakery offered to make rainbow cookies to take to city hall and a store began painting a rainbow outside the property, Spencer said.

Lawyers Kyla Lee and Paul Doroshenko also offered parking lots they own in the city’s downtown core for the students to paint.

“The rainbow has taken on a bigger meaning than just support or gay pride — it’s now we love you and accept you whoever you are,” Lee said.

Spencer said students were beaming when they saw Lee’s offer posted on Twitter.

They already had a contingency plan in place to paint a rainbow on school property if the city didn’t approve the crosswalk.

Spencer said they intend to make the installation of a rainbow walkway at the school a celebration. They’re also going to discuss the parking lot option with the school board and look at collaborating with as many groups as possible.

What’s happened has also given the symbol of the rainbow deeper meaning, she said.

“Kids in general, they’re seeing the town rally behind this and that may help people who feel alienated for any reason feel that, hey, it is safe here.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Quarterdeck restaurant, pub temporarily closed until summer

“We have decided to close the pub until April 30, 2019,” stated the pub’s announcement.

Port Hardy’s RCMP Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen: ‘It’s business as usual’ after cannabis legalization

Local RCMP will still be on the lookout for impaired driving despite cannabis legalization.

Jay Dixon finishes top three for School and District Leadership award

“I believe it’s all of our responsibility for our schools to provide quality education,” said Dixon.

7 Mile Landfill operations tender closes October

Taxes covering the landfill have not increased over the past 15 years and are not expected to soon.

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

Port McNeill mayoral candidate: Gaby Wickstrom

Wickstrom said she one of the issues she’ll work on is infrastructure in a fiscally responsible way.

Port McNeill mayoral election: Shirley Ackland

Incumbent Ackland wants to complete council’s priorities started in the last four years.

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Port Hardy mayoral election: Dennis Dugas

Dugas has extensive experience working under the district, 40 years, but is now running for mayor.

Port Hardy mayoral election: Hank Bood

Bood talks on his past four years as mayor working on various projects.

Port Hardy municipal election candidate Treena Smith’s profile

Smith has had prior experience working in local government working in economic development.

Most Read