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EDITORIAL: Pride symbols are sadly necessary

The sharp increase in hate crimes targeting sexual orientation is chilling
Pride flag flying in LeBourdais Park in Quesnel. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Pride-themed billboards, crosswalks, flags and other symbols are making some people uneasy. That’s why such symbols are needed.

June is Pride Month and in Kelowna, Advocacy Canada is launching the Kelowna Billboard Project. The billboards are to promote a positive message and to contrast a rise in hate against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

The signs of this animosity and hate are easy to see.

In Penticton, a two-spirit rainbow crosswalk was installed in late May. Less than 48 hours later, the crosswalk had been defaced. In April, two rainbow crosswalks in Salmon Arm were also defaced.

Drag storytime events and other drag-themed events have come under criticism and in at least one case in British Columbia, an event was postponed because of concerns about safety.

It would be unfair and inaccurate to dismiss these and other incidents as isolated cases which do not represent our communities. National statistics tell a different story.

Information collected by Statistics Canada shows a noticeable increase in police-reported hate crimes across Canada in recent years.

In 2021, the latest year for which figures are available, a total of 3,360 incidents were reported, up from 2,646 incidents in 2019. The 2021 figures included 423 hate crimes targeting sexual orientation, up significantly from 265 such incidents in 2019.

The rise in hate incidents is disturbing, and the sharp increase in hate crimes targeting sexual orientation is chilling.

In addition, the creation of rainbow flags and the announcement of drag-themed events often bring out derogatory and mean-spirited comments. These comments are not the same as hateful incidents or vandalism or pride-themed symbols, but they could be seen as a level of acceptance for such actions.

All people deserve to be treated with respect.

All people should be able to feel safe. However, when hate crimes occur and when pride-themed symbols are defaced, the level of respect and safety becomes eroded.

— Black Press