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

Nanaimo plays hockey in support of Humboldt

Humboldt Strong Street Hockey Tournament held Sunday, April 22 at Nanaimo North Town Centre

RCMP looking for missing Nanaimo man

Mathias Millette has been missing since April 22

MLA Stilwell chairing B.C. Liberals’ new affordability committee

Opposition thinking about election readiness

B.C. Lions star helps Nanaimo players hone their game

Emmanuel Arceneaux was guest coach at the Jay Prepchuk football camp Sunday at John Barsby Secondary

Nanaimo projects cited for excellence in building awards

Several projects score with judges in 2017 VIREB Commercial Building Awards.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Renewed plea for answers in 40-year-old B.C. cold case

The family of Lawrence Wellington Allard is hoping a private reward will get them some closure

UPDATED: Arrest made after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Police are not saying what is the extent of injuries yet

B.C. farmland values grew at slower rate in 2017: report

Vancouver Island saw the highest growth in the province

Turbulent times for outgoing B.C. Lieutenant Governor

Judith Guichon ends term today, returns to Nicola Valley ranch

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Maple Leafs look to stay alive tonight as they face elimination against Boston on home ice

Electric vehicles more affordable than you think: BC Hydro

Myths blocking road to electric vehicle adoption

Kinder Morgan bungled pipeline public relations: poll

The survey suggests 58 per cent of Canadians believe the company is to blame for poor perceptions

Most Read