High school students' proposal for rainbow crosswalk rejected by Merritt, B.C., city council

The Merritt school district's wish for a rainbow crosswalk, in solidarity with the high school's diverse student population, has been rejected by city council.

Council worries other groups, like rotary and the local hockey team, will want their own crosswalks

The City of Merritt recently rejected a proposal from the school district to paint a rainbow crosswalk near the public high school. (CBC)

The Merritt school district's wish for a rainbow crosswalk, in solidarity with the high school's diverse student population, has been rejected by city council.

Two groups of students at Merritt Secondary School — an LGBTQ pride group and the Aboriginal Youth Voice Group — approached School District 58 with the idea of putting in a rainbow crosswalk to raise awareness and acceptance of all people.

"I thought it was a really positive message the youth were trying to send to the community," said Gordon Comeau, chair of the board for the school district.

The district proposed a rainbow crosswalk be put in at Coldwater Avenue and Chapman Street, near the high school, but in a public space.

"The request really was … to try to bring the issue into a public forum to gain acceptance," Comeau said.

Representatives took the idea to council on February 27, hoping they would allow it on city property.  

"This is certainly not my lifestyle, nor do I propose to understand it or condone it, but I understand the fact that the kids of the school think that this will be a way to show some type of inclusion to the [kids] that belong in that community and I think that that is a positive message that the kids are trying to create," said Coun. Linda Brown.

Several councillors questioned who would pay to maintain the crosswalk. The school district said it was willing to bear the initial costs of the crosswalk and the maintenance. It also said the plan wasn't to use paint, but to use thermoplastic for the coloured stripes, which would last much longer than paint used on roads.

The mayor and councillors voiced concerns that if they let this group have a coloured crosswalk, other groups, such as the local rotary club and the city's junior hockey team, the Merritt Centennials, would want their own crosswalks painted.

"I'm worried it may open a Pandora's box for us," Mayor Neil Menard said.

"I don't support it. I can't support it."

Rainbow crosswalks have been painted in many B.C. cities and towns, including Vancouver, Fort Langley, New Westminster, Victoria, Courtenay, Kelowna, Vernon, Castlegar, Terrace, Smithers, Prince George and Masset, among others. 

Comeau said he was disappointed that council rejected the proposal, but plans to look into where a crosswalk or another symbol of acceptance can be put on school property.

"I find it a really weak argument to talk about the fact that maybe groups like rotary or the Merritt Centennials might request a crosswalk," he said.

"We thought it would send a positive message out there."

With files from Tara Copeland


​For more stories from Kamloops and the surrounding area, follow CBC Kamloops on Facebook and Twitter, and tune in to Daybreak Kamloops weekday mornings, 6-8:30 a.m. PT. ​