The final frontier of human rights: activist

by EVAN MATTHEWS

A group of locals is vying to keep the LGBTQ2 discussion alive, ultimately, with the goal of having a rainbow crosswalk in Valemount’s future.

Valemount Rainbow Crosswalk is a Facebook group now 200 members strong. Group administrator, Dan Kenkel says the group has met a couple of times now, and they plan to meet regularly to “organize some education and activities promoting the LGBTQ2 community.”

The group is working toward re-applying to Village council for a rainbow crosswalk, he says, although he adds there is no definite timeline for the application and that winter probably isn’t the best time to paint a crosswalk.

“We want to send a message not only to the LGBTQ2 community, but to the supporters of the community too, and visitors from outside who come,” says Kenkel.

“We hope they can see we are an inclusive community,” he says.

When asked if it would re-visit the rainbow crosswalk due to the volume of letters it has received, the Village did not respond by presstime.

While other options exist, such as banners hanging from light posts, or flags, etc., Kenkel says crosswalks have become the universal symbol for acceptance and inclusion, and ultimately, the group isn’t giving up on having one here.

“Are we supportive of flags and banners, absolutely, but some of them are a deflection and part of the problem,” says Kenkel.

“The problem is ‘we don’t mind what you do, as long as you don’t do it in our face,’ so we keep coming back to, why not a crosswalk?”

When asked if it would consider any other gesture of inclusion, aside from a sidewalk, the Village did not respond by presstime.

Initially, the Village’s rationale for rejecting the crosswalk was based upon a report written by the then-CAO Mark Macneill, saying liability and maintenance cost were cause for concern.

“The issue has created some division in the community and it’s caused people to pick sides, more or less. We want to move away from that,”
– Dan Kenkel, administrator of the Valemount Rainbow Crosswalk Facebook group

But Kenkel says he, nor the group, are buying the Village’s rationale, as they feel the reasons for the rejection haven’t proven to be legitimate.

“It seems like the local government, at best, is expressing tolerance rather than acceptance,” says Kenkel. “We want to move from tolerance to celebration.”

In July, the B.C. Government announced amendments to the province’s code of human rights furthering the protection of transgendered people.

Bill 27, Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2016, was passed to include “gender identity or expression” among the protected grounds covered by the code.

“What is the local administration’s policy of inclusion?” asks Kenkel.
“The provincial government is being asked this question, and larger centres have had the conversation.

“We want to keep the topic alive,” he says.

“The issue has created some division in the community and it’s caused people to pick sides, more or less. We want to move away from that,” he says.

Council initially rejected the idea for a rainbow crosswalk at the July 26 meeting, and even a month later, Kenkel says Village Council needs some education on the topic, so they can move toward a stronger position on support for the LGBTQ2 community.

Some Letters to the Editor in local publications have been volatile, according to Kenkel, showing what he calls, “ignorance toward the topic”, a topic even businesses are taking a stance on.

Both The Gathering Tree and SewHot Embroidery have taken out ads in local publications, while other businesses such as Infinity Office and Health are considering other displays of support in their storefronts.

“It’s not so much a business statement as much as a personal opportunity to demonstrate my values of equality and inclusion,” says Rashmi Narayan, owner of Infinity.

“Since the LGBTQ2 community is making efforts to raise awareness, I want to support them.”

The Valemount Rainbow Crosswalk Facebook group has ordered t-shirts, and will be selling them in the community to anyone willing to show support.

When the Village was asked if cost was still an acceptable reason for rejecting the crosswalk in lieu of the now organized group making fundraising efforts, the Village did not respond by presstime.

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