It says something when a vast array of cities across the province, country and the world are installing rainbow crosswalks, while the City of Chilliwack is still clutching its pearls.
Council unsurprisingly followed the recommendation of staff to “deny with regret” the rainbow crosswalk installation. It is obvious that Policy Directive J-11 “Crosswalk Decoration Guidelines,” which was just approved in 2017, was specifically put in place so that future councils had something to refer to whenever the idea of a rainbow crosswalk was brought up. However, rainbow crosswalks are not a political statement or religious movement as the directive implies, they are a purely a sign of a loving and inclusive community.
The staff also recommend that “crosswalks remain consistent in appearance and continue to serve as safety devices for pedestrians” but do not offer any statistics that would indicate that rainbow crossings are unsafe. In fact, the City of Edmonton carried out a Rainbow Crosswalks Pilot Project and released a report that found that “Overall, the rainbow crosswalks did not decrease pedestrian safety” and “The observed motorist behaviour was consistent with the survey findings where people felt the rainbow crosswalks made intersections safer and were not a distraction” (City of Edmonton, 2015). Numerous other municipalities have referenced the report in their decision to install crosswalks of their own.
In a case of hypocrisy at its finest, at the same meeting where the crosswalk was said not to be an “appropriate use of taxpayers’ dollars,” the city announced it will be spending over a million dollars as part of a sponsorship agreement to change the name of the Prospera Centre to the Chilliwack Coliseum, for what basically seems to boil down to good ol’ nostalgia. But if it’s really money that’s the problem, I will personally volunteer to paint the rainbow crosswalk as a work of public art, and I’m sure many others would echo that offer.
Now that we’ve dealt with both the safety and monetary concerns (which, if we are honest with ourselves, are just excuses), we have come down to the real issue — hate and intolerance. The emails that were mentioned in the council meeting should be made part of the public record as reference material in the meeting notes. I’m sure there will be few surprises as to what they say or who they came from. I would also assume they are full of logical fallacies including demands for absurd crosswalks with pro-life and anti-immigration messages, since both those examples were mentioned by Coun. Sue Knott. On a brighter note, I would like to commend Coun. Jason Lum for his dissent, as well as the Squiala and Tzeachten First Nations for demonstrating inclusivity through the recent installation of rainbow crosswalks at Eagle Landing and Vedder Crossing. Your leadership is refreshing and makes me hopeful that we are moving in the right direction as a community, no matter how slowly.