Vanderhoof will have a rainbow crosswalk to show support to the LGBTQ2S+ members of the community.
Mayor and council carried a motion giving the crosswalk a green light, and have chosen Victoria Street between NVSS and W.L. McLeod as the location for the symbol of recognition.
Mayor Gerry Thiessen said Vanderhoof council “believes in the philosophy of safety, value and inclusion towards all residents in the community.” Council believes the crosswalk is a symbol that speaks of their commitment towards the community, he said.
The district will start working on the crosswalk this summer.
Erin Baker, SOGI representative for SD91 said,”On behalf of the NVSS Queer Alliance, our hearts are filled with joy, excitement, pride that our voice was not just heard, but valued and respected by the Vanderhoof Council.”
She said the rainbow crosswalk will be a representation of inclusivity, and love for all.
NVSS Queer Alliance’s Share The Love campaign launched this year to promote safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ members of the community. Baker said the campaign was geared towards spreading awareness and celebrating diversity.
“It has taken a tremendous amount of courage and years to build a safe and inclusive environment where the youth felt safe to take a stand and ask for what they want. I hope all people of Vanderhoof, past, present, and future, know this is a beacon for all,” she added.
For Sasha Striegler Iannone, Vanderhoof resident and communications manager for Saik’uz First Nation, the news of the crosswalk becoming a reality put a “giant grin” on her face.
Striegler Iannone has lobbied for this crosswalk amongst other members of the community and says its difficult to express what this means to her.
”I know there’s push-back against having a rainbow crosswalk. I know there will likely be further push-back in the future. But, right now? Right now my heart is brimming with joy. I am proud to be part of a movement working to build a community that is caring, inclusive, comforting, and kind,” she said.
The crosswalk is a “confirmation” that Vanderhoof acknowledges the rights of the LGBTQ2S+ people, she said, adding, “And even though that is a low bar—and we exist and have a right to exist regardless of anyone’s opinion—it’s still one that brings me happiness and peace.”
Meanwhile, Thiessen said the rainbow crosswalk is the first step in a journey and won’t however, solve all concerns. Other items the district would work on is including messages of inclusiveness on banners in Vanderhoof.
In terms of financing the project, Thiessen said council will find funding in their budget.
“I understand it won’t be a significant funding. We have had offers from the communities to help with it. But, we sense that it is a community initiative and the funding will be coming out of our municipal budget,” Thiessen said.