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TOP STORIES 2019: Rainbow crosswalk debate gets colourful in Chilliwack

Council said no but 16 crosswalks were either painted or planned for private properties and schools
Squiala Chief David Jimmie stands in one of two freshly painted rainbow crosswalks at Eagle Landing on Tuesday morning. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

A colourful community campaign urging city council to approve the first rainbow crosswalk in Chilliwack kicked off during the summer of 2019.

Although city council turned down the crosswalk proposal on Sept. 3, citing the rainbow’s potential for being “divisive” in Chilliwack, it turned out that several pro-rainbow crosswalk efforts were coalescing at the same time to make it happen on private lands.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack council votes to deny rainbow crosswalk request

Within a few months, there were rainbow crosswalks painted on First Nations land, at Chilliwack schools, and on driveways at private residences, all to show support for inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ2S, at sites where City of Chilliwack approval or permits were not required.

Mayor Ken Popove had personally indicated his support for a rainbow crosswalk initially by signing the petition with 800 signatures, but he later stated that as mayor he felt he “had to stand back” and couldn’t vote in favour.

The decision to deny the proposed rainbow crosswalk was based on council’s 2017 policy directive J-11, the Crosswalk Decoration Policy, which states: “The City of Chilliwack will not authorize crosswalk decoration on City crosswalks supporting political or religious movements or commercial entities.”

But despite most of council turning thumbs-down at vote time, citing the importance of crosswalk uniformity, there are now 16 rainbow crosswalks across Chilliwack - either down on the ground, or about to be painted in the new year.

The first rainbow crosswalks to appear were on Squiala First Nation land at Eagle Landing in August, followed by the ones on Tzeachten First Nation land at Vedder Plaza.

Two crosswalks were proudly painted in rainbow colours on private residential properties, one was approved at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) property, and one can be found on the Chilliwack School District office site.

• READ MORE: Rainbow crosswalks add colour to First Nations land in Chilliwack

• READ MORE: Rainbow crosswalk coming to Chilliwack school district parking lot

There are also several unique takes on the rainbow motif that can be found downtown: a rainbow mural at The Book Man, a bench at Central Elementary and the iconic Rainbow Piano courtesy of Bobbypin’s Curiosities.

They are becoming so prevalent, that the Rainbow Crosswalk for Chilliwack group, led by spokesperson Amber Price has applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to create a new category: The Most Rainbow Crosswalks in a City.

“It occurred to me that we may have surpassed major urban centres with the sheer volume of crosswalks that we have seen installed in Chilliwack,” Price said. “I would like to see that recognized on an international scale if it is the case.”

• READ MORE: Chilliwack homeowners have own rainbow crosswalk painted as a show of respect

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Amber Price, who led the effort to get a rainbow crosswalk in Chilliwack, speaks to supporters before the vote. (Jennifer Feinberg/The Progress)
Squiala Chief David Jimmie shares a laugh with Amber Price beside one of two freshly painted rainbow crosswalks at Eagle Landing on Tuesday morning. Price is a downtown business owner who recently hand delivered a petition to city hall with 14 other supporters who want a rainbow crosswalk installed on Wellington Avenue. She was at Eagle Landing that day to personally thank Chief Jimmie. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Lorna Seip, manager of Two Girls On A Roll, provided the labour for free to paint the crosswalk at a Chilliwack home. A crosswalk will also be coming to Hope, after a slim majority voted in favour of supporting a grant application by a community group. (Submitted photo)
Amber Price stands in one of 11 rainbow crosswalks now installed in Chilliwack, with more coming. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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