Langley Township council has approved another rainbow crosswalk, with the understanding that it won’t cost the municipality any money.
It has been in the works since May of last year, when the Langley Board of Education voted to work with the RCMP detachment and the Township to create a rainbow crosswalk adjacent to RCMP headquarters and the school board offices, located next to the existing crosswalk at 222 Street.
In November, the idea was endorsed by the joint Township and school district liaison committee.
During the debate on Monday, Sept. 21, Councillor Blair Whitmarsh argued the matter should be delayed until the Township could develop an “equity and dignity framework” that would establish general principles for handling such requests.
Whitemarsh said he had received emails both for and against the proposal, calling it “a topic that is a challenging one for our community” and a decision that should be deferred until a framework is in place.
He stressed that he supports inclusiveness, saying “we need to be a community that treats all people with dignity and respect.”
“I am certainly not saying no to a rainbow crosswalk,” Whitmarsh told council.
A majority supported the crosswalk proceeding, with Coun. Bob Long saying he had been informed the school district wasn’t seeking funding, only approval.
Long suggested the idea should be passed with wording added to make it clear the crosswalk would be “at no cost” to the Township.
“All we’re doing is giving approval to painting the road,” Long commented.
“This is not a money issue. This is not something we have to defend to taxpayers.”
Councillor Eric Woodward, who raised the issue in the first place called the crosswalk idea a “small gesture that would mean a lot,” adding he thought the Township could, in fact, fund the crosswalk with money from its contingency fund.
“It’s a pretty small amount of money,” Woodward remarked.
Coun. Kim Richter called the proposed deferral a “stall tactic.”
“I don’t think we need to delay this crosswalk,” Richter sad.
“The framework is there. It’s the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Councillor Steve Ferguson liked the framework proposal, but not if it meant delaying the crosswalk.
“I don’t want this buried,” Ferguson said.
In the end, a majority of council voted to approve the crosswalk with additional language making it clear it would be at no cost to the Township, then referred the framework proposal to an upcoming council workshop next month on deciding priorities. Couns. David Davis, Margaret Kunst and Whitmarsh were opposed to the amended motion.
Langley school board chair Megan Dykeman welcomed the decision.
“The Langley Board of Education is pleased to have support from the RCMP and the Township of Langley on this rainbow crosswalk project,” Dykeman said.
“As a board and district, we are continuing to work together with our students, staff and community partners to foster an inclusive and accepting culture.”
Dykeman said the board was ready to work with District staff to determine the next steps.
“This may include determining the viability of the project, cost, potential funding sources, timeline and other considerations.”
Trustee David Tod, whose work on the school District’s LGBTQ+ Committee led to the proposal, said he was “encouraged” by the decision.
“For all of us, the importance of seeing one’s self reflected and celebrated in society increases our sense of self-worth, societal belonging, and overall mental health,” Tod said.
He noted rainbow crosswalks are being used in communities across B.C. as “ a powerful message of inclusion.”
“As a vibrant and diverse community, Langley has the opportunity to pair a highly visible symbol of inclusion with a commitment of greater understanding and acceptance. The rainbow crosswalk is just one of many initiatives and activities to help us keep moving in a direction to ensure all members of our community feel safe.”
When a previous rainbow crosswalk was painted in Fort Langley in 2017, it created a stir, with the crossing vandalized shortly after it was installed.
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