by Tristan Turner
Morinville won’t be quite as colourful this June as some of our Albertan neighbours following a discussion from Council that axed a proposal to paint a small Morinville crosswalk rainbow in honour of pride month. In place of this, Council unanimously passed a motion to raise a pride flag outside of Town Hall for some of June, in addition to an official proclamation from Mayor Lisa Holmes marking the occasion.
This decision seems perplexing, especially following many positive comments on a previous story on MorinvilleNews.com outlining the potential project. So, what is council’s justification then for axing this annual tradition embraced by so many other communities?
Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein insisted that evening that rainbow sidewalks were simply unsafe, citing anecdotal evidence from her own driving past St. Albert’s colourful crosswalks, saying: “I find I’m more focused on the colours than what’s coming across the street.”
Council seemingly unanimously got behind Boutestein’s comments, with Councillor FitzGerald saying that what mattered to him was that the event was commemorated in some way, not necessarily that it had to be done through a rainbow road-crossing.
But, why not commemorate pride through one? The assertion that a rainbow sidewalk is a public safety concern is a bit rich, with no real evidence to back it up; beyond anecdotes about that is. In fact, rainbow sidewalks are a wonderful national and international tradition that make a loud public statement of acceptance and unity in the face of so much hatred.
What is unsafe, however, is this hatred, the fear and violence many LGBTQ+ people have faced through their lives. This is so much more real than any threat posed to a driver because of some vibrant paint across asphalt.
To be fair, it seems Council’s interest in celebrating pride in our community is genuine. With the passage of the motion to raise the pride flag, as well as their thoughtful and cordial discussion on how to mark the occasion, that much is evident. But their rationale for not painting a sidewalk rainbow, is frankly paper-thin.
Other communities in the province will be doing this this year, including Lethbridge, which recently voted to paint two sidewalks rainbow, and another the colours of the Transgender flag, with plans to potentially make these colours permanent. These initiatives were an opportunity to have the community come together and get excited about celebrating LGBTQ+ folks in their city.
However, Council’s decision to not to paint the sidewalks shouldn’t discourage residents from celebrating the occasion this June. Paint your sidewalks in chalk, wear rainbow buttons or face paintings, and let LGBTQ+ folks in town (and everywhere) know that they are loved, valued and respected. Let’s show everyone Morinville’s pride this year, rainbow crosswalks or no.