Coquitlam City Council has voted to install a rainbow crosswalk outside City Hall, at Burlington Drive and Pinetree Way, after a month of heated debate.
According to a report by City staff on the issue, the original estimated cost of installing the crosswalk was $10,000, however it is now believed it will cost less.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart told Daily Hive the city is known for being very welcoming and inclusive, and the crosswalk would reflect that.
“The rainbow is used around the world in many cultures to represent diversity and inclusion,” he said in a statement.
“Our crosswalk will be a celebration of our diversity in all its forms — culture, origin, race, creed, ability/disability, gender orientation/identification, age, mental health, developmental ability, everything.”
‘I’m quite disappointed’
The crosswalk idea has proven controversial ever since it was proposed to Council by LGBTQ activists in Coquitlam in September.
Speaking at the council meeting on Monday, Councillor Terry O’Neill opposed the crosswalk on the grounds that it showed support for one particular community.
“Even if it’s in the aid of the universal good, the embrace of diversity, I think we’re doing something that’s unfair and not good City policy,” O’Neill said.
“Therefore I’m quite disappointed in what we’re doing here.”
Everyone on Council had “spoken their mind and sometimes their heart” on this issue over the last month, said O’Neill.
“I think everybody has taken a stand and so in that way, I think everybody’s been courageous.”
“We’re all very forthright, we speak our minds, and we take our positions,” he said. “It’s opened up a bit of a can of worms.”
‘The welcoming, accepting city’
Meanwhile, Councillor Dennis Marsden said the crosswalk was about “moving the bar” and recognizing there are individuals in the community that aren’t treated equitably.
“While the crosswalk itself is seen as LGBTQ, we see it as more than that, and it’s about diversity overall, being who you are, the welcoming, accepting city,” he said.
Marsden proposed an amendment that Staff explore installing a sign to explain that the crosswalk represents that Coquitlam welcomes all diversity.
But Councillor Bonita Zarrillo said such a sign would be a disclaimer and would negate what the crosswalk was really about.
“People will interpret the crosswalk how they see fit,” she said. “I feel strongly that the rainbow crosswalk is the rainbow crosswalk.”
Councillor Mae Reid said she didn’t look at such a sign as a disclaimer, and that the crosswalk was about diversity.
However, she would prefer to add the phrase, “Diversity Lives Here,” to signs welcoming people to the City of Coquitlam.
Diversity ‘includes so many people”
Mayor Stewart backed all signs supporting diversity, which included, but was not limited to, the LGBTQ community.
“[Diversity] includes so many people,” he said. “I want [the crosswalk] to embrace those other people as well. So does the LGBTQ community own the rainbow? No.”
Stewart said those activists asking the City to install the crosswalk agreed, and that the rainbow was about inclusion, rather than one particular community.
“We need to contemplate how this can be a symbol of inclusion, rather than the divisiveness that we heard from so many people,” said the Mayor.
“It’s too bad that we saw such divisiveness over something that really should be about making sure everyone was included.”
The motion to install the rainbow crosswalk passed 8 to 1. Council also voted unanimously to have Staff look into adding an explanatory sign next to the crosswalk.