By Laura Keil
Tire skid marks and a splotch of white paint are acts of vandalism that have marred Valemount’s inclusivity crosswalk in its first month of existence. But Village staff swiftly removed the white paint and Mayor Owen Torgerson took a firm stand on the matter.
“Expenses incurred by repairing the destruction of public property is something that costs everyone in our community. The Village, however, will be ready to repair, repaint and remind folks that this behaviour is not acceptable.”
The rainbow crosswalk, dubbed an “inclusivity crosswalk” by the Village, is the first rainbow coloured crosswalk in Valemount and its location at the Secondary School was pitched by a local parent, a high school student and the high school’s principal last year. A 2016 proposal for the rainbow crosswalk downtown was denied by a previous council.
Mayor Torgerson said both paint and tire marks can be removed by mechanical scrapping and that repainting will likely need to occur, but he said the Village is not currently considering security cameras.
“The Village is aware that there are security cameras protecting private residences in the area and ask that the community share information with the RCMP when these types of incidents occur.”
He said residents have reported the vandalism to the RCMP and a file number has been opened.
Dakota Stone grew up in Valemount and now lives in Vancouver with his husband. He said he hopes the person or people responsible for the damage will be open to change and understanding one day.
“I know people can change if they are willing and wanting to; if and when that person wants to have a discussion I would be willing to talk to them as long as they are really wanting to learn and understand. I think these people don’t directly know any family members well enough to know that it is possible to have a completely loving relationship with someone that may be the same sex, non-binary or trans. They are people who’d rather invest time and hate into something that does not directly affect them in any way. Don’t like it, look away. It would be the same for someone who doesn’t believe in someone else’s god but no one would, or hopefully wouldn’t, go throw paint on their church. We can all co-exist in the same world.”
Many took to social media to express their disappointment and their commitment to ensuring acceptance of diversity continues in the community.
Mayor Torgerson said preventing future damage is a challenge.
“It can be expected that this type of disappointing behaviour may occur again.”
Mayor Torgerson says the inclusivity crosswalk is a way of showing that everyone has the right to feel safe and welcome in the community and comfortable in their own skin.
“It also reminds us of our loved ones and neighbours we have lost to stigma, discrimination and hate. This crosswalk is not just for walking; it’s for remembering those who walked before and paved the roads for a brighter future. Everyone has a home here in Valemount, and we are all better for that.”