Safety concerns, disharmony, lack of consultation, waste of money — these were just some of the arguments that 20 people made on Monday trying to convince city councillors not to create a rainbow crosswalk on Minoru Boulevard.
In the end, council pushed forward with the symbol of the LGBTQ2S community that will be painted in time for Pride Week — only Coun. Chak Au voted against it.
One speaker said the crosswalk would create “confusion” whereby people would think it was only for the LGBTQ2S community to use. She added that there is already equality for all groups in Canada.
“Why do we need to put a particular emphasis on the inclusion of LGBTQ2S groups?” she said.
Others picked up on the confusion issue saying the rainbow crossing could be a distractions and therefore be unsafe for traffic and pedestrians. Staff noted later there is no data to support that concern.
Yet another speaker said lots of people need help from the city and this “special project” isn’t needed.
“The LGBTQ community ideology, they do not warrant public attention nor funding of our city,” he said. “The LGBTQ community are already wealthy and powerful, they are already included in Richmond.”
Several speakers argued there wasn’t any consultation on the crosswalk and that the $15,000 could be used for more useful things like helping abused women and the homeless.
Some talked about it causing disharmony in the community.
Ivan Pak, who ran for school board on an anti-SOGI platform and is running in the federal election for the People’s Party of Canada banner, argued against the crosswalk, and said he refused to call it a rainbow because it only had six colours, not seven.
Several people, however, also spoke in favour, and pointed out how stressful it is for gay youth who aren’t accepted by their families and society, causing them mental health issues and high rates of suicide.
One speaker, a teacher at London-Steveston, pointed to statistics about LGBTQ youth, saying they are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids and 33 per cent of them attempt suicide. In addition, 47 per cent of trans-youth have thought about suicide and 19 per cent attempt it annually.
“These kids are our most vulnerable,” she said.
Another speaker, a university professor, said she was “deeply troubled” by the fear and misunderstanding of LBGTQ people in the community.
“As a university professor, I am constantly referring young LGBTQ students to counselling because their families oppress them, because they fail to acknowledge an undeniable, biological fact,” she said.
She recommended the city put money toward education and dialogue about the issue.
“This is not about life choice, this is not about religion, this is not about personal choice – this is a human rights issue, this is an issue about social justice,” she said.
Au put forward motions to refer the issue back to staff, create a policy around similar request from “special interest groups” and for Richmond to create its own symbol of diversity and inclusion. None were seconded.
Au argued that if the rainbow crosswalk were approved, other groups would come forward with requests.
He said a positive endorsement will leave a “bad taste” with those who disagree, causing a division in the community.
Other councillors, however, expressed their support for the crosswalk and its symbolism.
“People shouldn’t have to erase themselves for the comfort of others, harmony via erasure is not harmony,” Greene said after listening to the public feedback. “LGBTQ orientation cuts across ethnicities, ages, abilities, religion, and they belong here because they are a part of all of us.”
She added it’s not political or ideological, rather an “affirmation of human rights and dignity.”
Coun. Harold Steves said the message of the rainbow crosswalk will be that Richmond is inclusive and caring; in addition, he pointed out “discrimination against LGBTQ is against the law.”
“I don’t see how we can’t support the rainbow (crosswalk),” he said.
Coun. Michael Wolfe said, as a high school teacher, he knows students who are fearful of going home as they’re not accepted because of their sexual orientation.
Coun. Bill McNulty said the issue is about “our sons and daughters, our friends and neighbours,” adding that “it’s okay to be yourself.”