CHILLIWACK, B.C. — A recent city council vote against building a rainbow crosswalk in support of LGBTQ pride hasn’t stopped residents from turning a small B.C. city into a rainbow crosswalk mecca.
Chilliwack, B.C. city council voted against a proposed rainbow crosswalk in the city’s downtown in September, but since then, residents have organized their own.
Many are painted on private residential properties. There are also four on First Nations land, and one at the Chilliwack School District office. Local resident Amber Price, who spearheaded efforts to get a crosswalk over the summer, says there are five more planned at nearby schools, bringing the total to 16.
“The surge in rainbow crosswalks at our local schools sends a beautifully clear message to our LGBTQ2+ youth — ‘We see you. We support you. We celebrate you. You are loved’,” Price told the Chilliwack Progress.
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Price also said she’s looking into having Chillwack recognized with a world record for the most rainbow crosswalks. The city is located about 100 kilometres southeast of Vancouver and has a population of just over 80,000.
“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,” she said. “I would like to see that recognized on an international scale if it is the case.”
Rainbow crosswalks have become increasingly permanent fixtures in many Canadian cities. Calgary installed permanent rainbow and trans flag crosswalks in the downtown core this summer, while Vancouver has had permanent rainbow crossings in a downtown neighbourhood since 2013.
During the meeting when the crosswalk was voted down, Coun. Sue Knott, who voted against it, said city officials were not elected to make “political statements” and that a rainbow crosswalk would be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
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“When it comes to painting a rainbow on a crosswalk, or baby feet, crosses, anti immigration or anything else, it becomes a political statement,” Knott said during the meeting. “It also becomes a target for vandalism and a canvas for intolerance and hate. You cannot change attitudes by painting crosswalks.”
Coun. Jeff Shields said that the crosswalk was “not in the best interests” of the community, and could set a “precedent,” while Coun. Bud Mercer said the crosswalk was a “divisive” issue to support.
Shortly following the city council vote, Chilliwack resident Marty van den Bosch painted a 38-foot crosswalk across his driveway.
“I support the belief that everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of our differences. If you wish to judge someone, judge them on how they speak of and treat others,” van den Bosch wrote in a Facebook post.
Van den Bosch’s crosswalk Chilliwack’s first, though. In August, members of the Squiala First Nation installed two rainbow crosswalks in Chilliwack. Since they were installed on indigenous-owned land they did not require any permits or approval from the city.
“The city does not have jurisdiction over our lands so we are free to paint them to demonstrate our support for being an inclusive community. I have also recently lost a friend from the LGBTQ community so this is truly near and dear to my heart,” Squiala Chief and president of the Ts’elxweyeqw tribe Dave Jimmie told the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.