A new series of rainbow-themed pride banners will be lining the streets of downtown Chilliwack to celebrate pride month in June.
City of Chilliwack officials announced the project April 12, stating in a release they are “proud to support and fund” the new banners as a way to support inclusion, and the action plan goals from the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusiveness, Diversity and Accessibility (MTFIDA).
The pride banners will serve as a “powerful reminder” for anyone struggling with their own identity in Chilliwack that they are loved, according to Justin Mallard, who came up the idea, and fought for them while a member of the task force.
“Coming from a family with several members within the LGBTQ2SA+ community, my passion to bring this forward was fuelled through shared lived experiences,” said Mallard. “I hope these banners serve as a powerful reminder for those who are struggling with their own identity that they are loved by their community for being authentically who they are.”
Although the banner program is managed through the Downtown Chilliwack BIA, city council has unanimously supported the decision to install the banners to celebrate Pride in Chilliwack for 2022.
Council turned down a previous request in 2019 for a rainbow crosswalk to show inclusion, citing its policies that prohibit crosswalk decoration of any kind.
“One thing that became clear through the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusiveness, Diversity and Accessibility was that members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community regularly come up against barriers to inclusion,” said Mayor Ken Popove. “We hope these banners help demonstrate that everyone is welcome in Chilliwack, as we work towards our vision of an inclusive, diverse and accessible community where all residents have the opportunity to thrive.”
The banners are emblazoned with the words: “Courage, pride, acceptance, hope, and love” on one side as well as the word “A:lwes” which means courage in Halq’emeylem, on the other.
“The Downtown Chilliwack BIA is excited to be the first to have this series of banners installed within our community. They will be a beautiful addition to the positive, changing landscape here in the downtown core. They also represent the BIA values of providing a safe, welcoming, inclusive downtown and our commitment to the ongoing inclusive policies and education within the BIA and our community,” said Kevin Schroeder, President, Downtown Chilliwack Business Improvement Association.
“Strong Indigenous representation” was a critical element to his banner idea, Mallard said.
”I was fortunate to have the opportunity to receive feedback from Tzeachten Chief Derek Epp, who also sat on the Mayor’s Task Force, he said. “Local Indigenous artist Bonny Graham created a beautiful two spirit design, accompanied by the word ‘Alwes’, which means ‘courage’ in Halkomelem.”
Additional consultations with Tourism Chilliwack, the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Chilliwack Business Improvement Association helped shape these inclusive banners, while Teri Westerby’s strong connection to the LGBTQ2SA+ community and local advocacy, paired with his digital design skills, assisted in bringing the final design elements together.
For more information about the MTIFDA Action Plan, please visit chilliwack.com/inclusion.
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