Coquitlam committee to mull rainbow crosswalk Monday
Nicola Spurling, a board member of the Tri-Cities Pride Society, is leading a push to install a rainbow crosswalk in Coquitlam. She says city councillors are showing support ahead of a meeting Monday. (Postmedia Network)
A Coquitlam woman will ask her city council Monday to install the Tri-Cities' first rainbow crosswalk and make hers the first city in B.C. to have a transgender-pride crosswalk, too.
Nicola Spurling, a board member of the newly-formed Tri-Cities Pride Society, will ask council Monday to install one crosswalk painted with the rainbow stripes of the LGBT-pride flag, the other with the blue, pink and white stripes of the transgender-pride flag.
In June, Whitehorse became the first Canadian city to install both, followed by Lethbridge and Calgary in Alberta. More than a dozen B.C. cities have rainbow crosswalks.
Spurling said she felt compelled to take up the cause after Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart posted a video on Facebook in August showing people dancing in a rainbow intersection at this year's Vancouver Pride Parade.
She told Stewart their city needed a rainbow crosswalk, too, to which he replied, "I'm in." He said the idea had already been raised by Coun. Teri Towner.
Spurling believes becoming B.C.'s first city with a transgender-pride crosswalk would make it clear that Coquitlam is inclusive.
"As queer people in the Lower Mainland, the Tri-Cities don't seem like a particularly friendly place to live," Spurling said. "So the idea behind a rainbow crosswalk is that I know Coquitlam is a very accepting place.
"But to find that out, it took me campaigning (she ran for the Green party in the provincial election) and knocking on people's doors as an out trans person to actually realize just how friendly the neighbourhood is."
Spurling said she's willing to fundraise, should cost of the crosswalks become a problem, she said.
Monday, after hearing Spurling and other delegates' proposals, council may ask city staff to come back with a report on costs and other issues related to the project before it votes on the issue.
Coun. Craig Hodge said if the community is happy with a single, all-inclusive crosswalk, he'd support that.
But council will need to debate how best to recognize all members of the community, whether a crosswalk is the right way to do that and, if so, the logistics of it, he said.
"In the city of Coquitlam, we're a very inclusive community, and we want to make sure we include everybody, every day," he said.
Concerns around equity and policy will play a role in discussions, said Coun. Terry O'Neill. He wonders whether installing special crosswalks would be unfair to other groups seeking recognition by the city.
"Council is very fair-minded, very equity-minded, but if we do along with this, I think we would have to therefore then open the door to any other group that asks for a special display of some sort," he said.
O'Neill said the issue may be complicated because the city is among more than a dozen B.C. municipalities that don't grant proclamation requests, which he said frees up council from devoting time to causes not typically under its mandate.
He's also concerned about the cost of installation, which typically requires special thermoplastic material.
The City of Vancouver paid $25,000 for four permanent rainbow crosswalks, landscaping and park benches. New Westminster paid $7,500 for a single rainbow crosswalk while Victoria paid $14,000 for three. Lethbridge's rainbow and transgender-pride crosswalks cost between $13,000 and $18,000, paid for by the the city's Pride society.
Coun. Towner, who pitched the idea of installing a rainbow crosswalk to council, said she doesn't believe there will be a deluge of crosswalk requests should the city install one for LGBT pride. She's not sure the proposal should be counted as a proclamation request.
Towner said the city already lights up a fountain, pillars and pathway with colour in recognition of Pride, mental health and other causes, clearly showing support for them.
She's heard concerns from residents of other cities with rainbow crosswalks who said they felt taxpayers shouldn't have paid for them. And she wonders whether it would be better to paint other things, such as stairs on the Coquitlam Crunch Trail, rather than redoing a crosswalk.
But she certainly supports a rainbow crosswalk in Coquitlam.
"I would love our city to have one," she said. "I just think it adds an extra level of vibrancy and colour and positivity."