Chilliwack school board narrowly approves rainbow crosswalk after impassioned debate

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      While Chilliwack city council may have rejected a request to paint an LGBT–inclusive rainbow crosswalk, Chilliwack will still be getting one. But it will be in a school board parking lot—and the approval wasn’t without disagreement.

      At a Chilliwack Board of Education meeting on September 17, trustees debated whether or not a rainbow crosswalk should be painted on school district property.

      Board chair Dan Coulter, who introduced the motion, made statements that seemed to address points made by Chilliwack councilors against painting a rainbow crosswalk.

      Coulter argued that anyone who claims to be inclusive can’t “do nothing” but has to back it up with action.

      He argued that the issue isn’t political—something that Coun. Sue Knott had used in her argument against the rainbow at city council—but a human rights issue.

      “I am often bemused when I see elected officials voting on motions, claiming that what they are doing isn’t political. You are indeed being political, taking a side and that is choosing to deny representation to all students and entrench the status quo.”

      Vice-chair Willow Reichelt was in support.

      “Given the unfortunate reputation that Chilliwack has developed in recent years for fostering homophobia and transphobia, I believe that it is important for this board to create this visual symbol for full inclusion of our LGBTQ students, parents, and staff.”

      Reichelt argued that human rights shouldn’t be a divisive issue and that discrimination shouldn’t be echoed by the board.

      Trustee Barry Neufeld was concerned that the rainbow singles out one group of students and how it might impact the board’s relationship with the city, in the wake of the city’s rejection.

      “It’s almost as if we’re giving the city a finger and basically overruling what they decided,” he said.

      Neufeld has a history of controversy due to his stances on LGBT and SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) issues.

      Trustee Darrell Furgason argued that it’s not a human-rights issue and questioned whether it actually solves any problems.

      The strongest opposition came from trustee Heather Maahs who said she’s concerned about how the installation of rainbow crosswalks has “gained momentum to an obsessive height”.

      As she thinks that such a crosswalk “elevates” one group of students above all others, she says it would do an “injustice” to LGBT students by demonstrating that they are more important than everyone else. She added that “to impose an ideology on our parking lot” is an insult to other students, such as those who are autistic, dyslexic, refugees, and more.

      Reichelt deemed Maah’s use of other minority students in her argument as “offensive” and regarded it just as an “excuse” not to support the issue. Reichelt said that her own son is autistic and loves the rainbows, and also pointed out that she is straight to emphasize that it’s not solely LGBT activists pushing for this initiative.   

      Coulter argued that the rainbows do not elevate one group above the others and other groups have representation in other ways.

      Trustees Jared Mumford and David Swankey also expressed support of the crosswalk.

      The crosswalk will cost approximately $367.50 to install, and it will last three to five years, after which it would need to be repainted.

      Ultimately, the motion passed in a 4-3 vote.