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

Sailings filling up on Northern Sea Wolf

There is a strong demand for the service

New ownership group presents Mount Timothy Resort plans

‘More activity and more people on the hill means more fun’

Thunderstorms in forecast for much of Cariboo Chilcotin

Special weather statements, concerns of flash flooding, for southern B.C. regions

Two Nuxalk artists awarded YVR Art Foundation scholarships

Several Nuxalk artists have won the award, some more than once

Convicted animal abuser to return to B.C. court May 21

Catherine Jessica Adams is facing a breach of probation charge

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read