Vernon gives rainbow crosswalk the green light

Council votes 6-1 in favour of rainbow crosswalk on 30th Avenue

A spectrum of vivid colours will soon appear in downtown Vernon.

City council voted 6-1 in favour Monday to install a rainbow crosswalk  at 30th Avenue  and 31st Street in the spring.

“Withy the eight colours, you are representing everything, not just LGBTQ,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

“The rainbow crosswalk means something right away. It means we accept everybody.”

City staff had recommended painting a walkway between  31st and 32nd avenues, but that concept was shelved for 30th Avenue, which was proposed by resident Travis Irmen.

“It’s amazing. It’s the first step,” said Irmen of council’s decision.

Coun. Scott  Anderson opposed the motion, saying a precedent could be set for other groups to lobby the city for recognition.

“The rainbow symbol has been adopted by the LGBTQ community,” said Anderson.

“It’s not the business of any level of government to wade into the culture wars. It’s not the place of city council to use people’s tax dollars to tell people what they should believe.”

A local business, Caliber Sport, has agreed to cover the cost of the crosswalk installation.

Anderson says he has received many calls from residents against the rainbow crosswalk and the issue isn’t fostering inclusivity.

“It’s caused a lot of unnecessary divisiveness. We need to get along without highlighting the differences between us.”

Anderson’s colleagues took issue with many of his comments.

“I have a daughter who is gay and I understand,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

“Anyone out there who says I have a special interest, yes I do. There are still hate crimes and people being beaten simply because of who they are.”

Coun. Brian Quiring told Anderson that the city already singles out specific groups.

“We are paying for a Christmas tree. That’s a Christian holiday. We paint nativity scenes on our windows at city hall,” said Quiring.

Coun. Bob Spiers voted for the 30th Avenue location although it wasn’t his top choice.

“I don’t think it’s any more visible than the pathway,” he said.

City staff had recommended the walkway largely because there would be less wear from pedestrians than from vehicles if the crosswalk was on a road.

Mayor Akbal Mund voted in favour of the rainbow crosswalk on 30th Avenue.

“I look at it like art. Once it’s up, I don’t think anyone will disagree,” the said.

However, Mund did take issue with recent coverage in The Morning Star, saying it did not reflect his previous comments that he supported the crosswalk.

“Sometimes what you read isn’t what you say,” he said.

Mund also defended previous comments that cost was an issue when considering a rainbow crosswalk.

“We found someone who is willing to pay for it.”

Coun. Dalvir Nahal is hopeful the rainbow crosswalk is a way for residents to become more aware about who lives in Vernon and the challenges they endure.

“I have a friend who is transgender and I remember the bias he faced. I want people to be friendly to everyone,” she said.

Nahal was discussing the rainbow crosswalk with her father and he was drawn to the use of orange — a significant colour in the Sikh faith.

“He felt touched by it and said, ‘It represents us.'” It starts the dialogue between us (community).”

Mind says there is still a possibility that the walkway between 31st and 32nd avenues could be turned into a rainbow and discussions with Caliber Sport will be held.