I would like to direct this letter to Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen and District Council as well.
I have been saddened to see the Facebook posts from some of the residents in Vanderhoof who are boldly against having every person who resides here feel welcome in this community. As a full-time mental health therapist in Vanderhoof, I have seen many people from the LGBTQ community over the last 5 years. Not once has anyone said they or their LGBTQ family member feels welcome here.
Many initiatives have been hard at work on making Vanderhoof safe for the First Nations people and other visible minorities. Yes, there are ongoing challenges in this area but at least there are symbols around town that honour different communities and the churches on many corners represent the various ways people choose to participate in their religion. But where is our flag?
I once read that bigotry is an individual, interpersonal act of meanness that is directed by a person or a group to another person or a group. These acts can be intentional or unintentional but it’s not the act of being mean that matters, it’s that it is based on the recipient’s racial, ethnic, cultural or sexual identity – or what the bigot thinks is their targets identity. We speak out against racism, we protect children from bullies, and we don’t drink and drive (I hope). And we also allow people to worship however they choose. Jesus said we are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves AND to not judge or you too will be judged. Even if you believe someone is sinning, your job is to love the sinner. If you were not allowed to congregate and worship, if people started vandalizing churches all over town, there would be an uprising. The rainbow (whether it’s painted on 4 corners or painted on a bench or with flags flying at the district office) represents the welcoming and safety to a group of people that is here and living in our small town. Do we really want to be seen as unwelcoming? Jesus hung out with outcasts so he could create a model of not throwing stones. He hung out with who was seen as the morally wrong, the unworthy and the disreputable. Are these people speaking out against the rainbow on the Vanderhoof Facebook page throwing stones without sin? Of course not.
This conversation is not full of grace or patience, we need dialogue not confrontation.
(MA, RCC, CCC)