Rainbow crosswalk divides Coquitlam council

Pride Society says initiative would promote diversity

Members of the Tri-Cities Pride Society are calling on the city of Coquitlam to install a rainbow crosswalk and a trans crosswalk at several prominent intersections.

Nicola Spurling told council Monday that the move would show the city is diverse and accepting of marginalized people. She noted that the rainbow crosswalks are common in communities around the world and that a trans crosswalk would be a first for British Columbia.

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“One is a universal symbol of acceptance and one is showing support for a very marginalized group in the community,” she told The Tri-City News.

“I am looking for a symbol of diversity and acceptance that is very prominent, that shows people their city welcomes and accepts them.”

During her presentation, Spurling addressed several concerns she said she has heard from council members related to the cost of the new crosswalks. She noted that cities often compare the prices with those in the city of Vancouver but in that municipality, the cost included landscaping and picnic tables.

For the Coquitlam proposal, she believes the price tag would be comparable to that in New Westminster, where the city paid $7,500 for a rainbow crosswalk, which is not significantly more than a standard crosswalk, she said.
Spurling suggested several locations, including Pinetree and Guildford ways, Pinetree and Glen Drive, Pinetree and Lincoln Avenue, and Marmont Street and Brunette Avenue.

She was joined by Ian Soutar, who also expressed support for a rainbow and trans crosswalk during Monday’s council meeting. (Both were Green candidates in Tri-City ridings in the May provincial election.)
Some Coquitlam councillors embraced the idea.

“There are many reasons to do this and so few reasons not to do it,” said Coun. Chris Wilson, later adding: “Lets not shy away from this as cowards because we want to avoid controversy. Let’s take a leadership role.”
Not all at the council table agreed with the rainbow crosswalk proponents.

Coun. Brent Asmundson said that allowing one group to have a crosswalk could open the door for other organizations to ask for similar consideration from the city.

Coun. Terry O’Neill went one step further, saying that the city is showing its diversity through actions, not symbols.

“We are doing a lot of things right,” he said. “We don’t have to wear badges or pins or put billboards up or paint crosswalks… We do it, not with symbols, with actual action.”

Other councillors said they would be open to supporting a rainbow crosswalk, which is seen as a symbol of diversity, but were reticent to support a trans crosswalk, which is tied to a specific group.

Spurling acknowledged council’s concerns regarding the trans crosswalk and how it highlights difference in the community. But she said trans people are marginalized and that the recognition would show support for a group that has struggled with high suicide rates and depression.

Proposals for rainbow crosswalks have cropped up in communities across Metro Vancouver, including Port Moody, where council has been asked to consider installing one on Murray Street between Rocky Point Park and Brewers Row.
Port Moody staff are expected to prepare a report for a council meeting this month. Currently, Lethbridge, Alta., and Whitehorse, Yukon, are the only communities in Canada that have trans crosswalks.

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