LGBT in B.C.: Vancouver requests provincial guidelines for rainbow crosswalks, Surrey mayor decides to install one

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      They're colourful and cheerful, but not everyone is happy about them.

      Rainbow crosswalks have been appearing in cities and towns across British Columbia ever since Vancouver installed Canada's first permanent rainbow crosswalks (at the Bute and Davie Street intersection) in 2013.

      However, requests to install rainbow crosswalks in some B.C. municipalities have resulted in divisive debates or rejections, with concerns raised ranging from the expense of installation and maintenance to fears of receiving requests from various other groups.

      Due to widespread variance in handling such requests, the City of Vancouver's LGBTQ-plus advisory committee recommended that civic governments would benefit from standardized guidelines across B.C.

      Right after Vancouver city council voted unanimously to ban conversion therapy (or the controversial practice of attempting to change a person's sexual orientation) on June 6, city councillors also voted unanimously to present a motion at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in 2018 to request the B.C. government to advise local governments how to handle rainbow crosswalk requests and to provide technical and financial support for these projects.

      Surrey is the latest city in the Lower Mainland to decide upon rainbow crosswalks. According to Global News, Mayor Linda Hepner made the decision alone without council approval.

      It will be created at Old Yale Road and University Drive near Holland Park, with the hope of being completed before the Surrey Pride Festival on June 30, and will cost the city $8,500 over five years.

      Although Mayor Hepner has received criticism, she has defended the decision.

      "When you look at 102 languages spoken here in our city, that rainbow sidewalk has gone way beyond just being an original LGBTQ sidewalk and it represents now a message of inclusiveness and I think in a city that as diverse as ours, that that is a critical message,” she told Now-Leader.

      Coquitlam installed a rainbow crosswalk on March 28, 2018.
      City of Coquitlam

      Coquitlam installed a rainbow crosswalk in March while Port Moody approved the creation of a rainbow crosswalk in September 2017 but a location is yet to be determined.

      School District 5 unveiled Cranbrook's first rainbow crosswalk on May 28, following one that the district created in Fernie in June 2017.

      Several rainbow crosswalks have been vandalized, including in Courtenay, one day after it was installed on May 31 as Pride Week was beginning; as well as Fort Langley and Campbell River last year, and New Westminster in 2015.

      However, Campbell River has since decided to ban any future non-standardized crosswalks, including rainbow ones.

      Controversy arose when Merritt city council voted against requests from youth groups to create a rainbow crosswalk. In reaction, Coldwater Hotel owners stepped in to allow students to paint a rainbow crosswalk in their parking lot.

      Other rainbow crosswalks have been painted in Whistler, Squamish, Nanaimo, Maple Ridge, Victoria, Kelowna, Castlegar, Terrace, Prince Rupert, Masset, and more.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.