I was in attendance at Travis Irmen’s presentation Oct. 11 regarding the installation of a rainbow crosswalk in Vernon’s downtown core.
I would like to start by commending Vernon city council for its earnest consideration of this project, and for the thoughtful reflections and questions that were raised.
I see in the subsequent article published in The Morning Star that Mayor Akbal Mund expressed a couple of reservations regarding who would pay for the project, and what kind of precedent might be set for other groups.
I would like to address those comments.
Regarding budgetary concerns, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the City of Vernon does a wonderful job of embracing multiculturalism and heritage by funding projects such as the downtown murals.
Clearly, our city has already shown a commitment to the ideal that celebrating the diversity of our residents is worthy of our taxpayers’ dollars.
As a taxpayer myself, it is certainly worth it to me, and I know that many other constituents agree.
Furthermore, it is important to note that a project such as the rainbow crosswalk, is not merely a symbolic gesture.
Bullying and suicide continue to be major issues plaguing the lives of LGBTQ youth.
I feel that this point cannot be stressed enough. For a young, questioning person, seeing a sign of visible, welcoming support from our city’s leaders in the heart of our community could literally save their life.
What kind of a price tag can be put on that?
Regarding the setting of precedent for other groups, I would like to once again emphasize that a precedent – and in my opinion, a valid and necessary one – has already been set with Vernon’s mural project.
What exactly is this precedent?
It is the idea that in order to build a strong and healthy community, it is crucial to foster acceptance of people from disadvantaged groups by celebrating their place in our society.
This is not a matter of opening the doors to any and all special interest groups who might want to slap their logo on a city building.
Sexual orientation is a protected class in the Canadian Human Rights Act due to the very real discrimination and prejudice that LGBTQ people still face today.
I contend that this gives added weight to the need for a visible symbol of inclusion for this particular group.
Additionally, I would personally be delighted if the installation of a rainbow crosswalk did serve as a precedent for projects celebrating other protected classes, such as women or people with disabilities.
I believe the City of Vernon has made great strides in the 10 years that I have lived here towards becoming a truly inclusive community, and I would like to acknowledge our current council’s part in that advancement.
I urge Mund and city council to continue this commendable march of progress by accepting Irmen’s proposed rainbow crosswalk installation.