Roy G. Biv will cross a Kamloops street in the near future.
On Tuesday, council approved a rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Second Avenue and Seymour Street downtown, between St. Andrews on the Square and the Kamloops Museum and Archives.
Council voted unanimously, 9-0, to approve the $6,000 crosswalk at a $4,500 expense to the city’s taxpayers. Kamloops Pride has pledged to cover 25 per cent of the cost, at $1,500.
Despite the clear and unanimous decision, it did not come without some concerns from councillors.
While in support of rainbow crosswalks in concept — as symbols of diversity — Coun. Dieter Dudy said the initiative could open up the city to legal issues should other user groups come to the city with requests.
Dudy noted the flag and banner issue, in which council approved erecting a community flag pole at city hall, only to later receive legal advice against allowing its use by community groups. Based on a Supreme Court of Canada decision, if the city allowed one group to hoist a flag, it would essentially have to allow all groups to do likewise.
City staff are not aware, however, of any legal issues municipalities have faced linked to rainbow crosswalks.
Coun. Bill Sarai agreed with Dudy. He said when the idea first arose, the Sikh Temple on Cambridge Crescent in Brocklehurst indicated a desire for a crosswalk painted with the Sikh symbol on Tranquille Road.
“We’re getting church groups that are lining up saying, ‘Well, if this is going to go through, we’re going to be in front of you, we want crosses on crosswalks,’” Sarai said. “I’m concerned.”
Asked to clarify those statements after the decision, Sarai said members of the Sikh community had previously requested signage indicating direction to the temple, but had been denied. Further, he said Kamloops Bible Truth Church requested a cross crosswalk. Reached by KTW, however, a pastor at the church denied such a request had been sent to the city.
Calling it a “difficult” decision, Coun. Mike O’Reilly suggested policy be implemented going forward to prevent council from having to make an “emotional decision” in the future.
Meanwhile, a handful of other councillors echoed the word “important” in advocating support for the crosswalk. Coun. Arjun Singh noted rainbow crosswalks exist across the province and said it symbolizes not only the LGBTQS+ community, but diversity and inclusivity at large. Coun. Kathy Sinclair noted the community of Ashcroft, with a population of 1,500, has a rainbow crosswalk
Mayor Ken Christian also spoke out in support.
“Other religious groups have not necessarily been persecuted in the Canadian mosaic and Canadian history, but the LGBTQS+ community has, in terms of service in the military, service in the police force and the approaches that society has taken to homosexuality in particular, over the years,” he said.
Christian said Kamloops Pride president Sam Numsen’s presentation in June was compelling, adding that a rainbow crosswalk is a symbol of the way the city addresses diversity.
“And that’s one of the things that we talked about in terms of our strategic plan about the nature of the city that we want to help guide,” Christian said. “From that perspective, and for $4,500, I’m in. And I would think that we need to engage with the Pride group about everything that they stand for in their movement and, at some point in time, hopefully there won’t be the necessity for that kind of, having the flag raising or having the crosswalk, because there will be a greater degree of normalization within our society.”
The city expects the rainbow crosswalk to be created within four to six weeks. The Pride parade is on Aug. 25.