Vancouver lawyers offer parking lot space after Merritt city council rejects rainbow crosswalk proposal

Two Vancouver lawyers have offered up their private parking lots to a group of high school students after Merritt city council rejected their proposal for a rainbow crosswalk.

If the students can't have a rainbow crosswalk, perhaps a rainbow parking lot will do

City council in Merritt, B.C., recently rejected a proposal for a rainbow crosswalk, similar to this one in Toronto. (John Rieti/CBC)

Two Vancouver lawyers have offered up their private parking lots in Merritt, B.C., to a group of high school students whose proposal for a rainbow crosswalk was rejected by city council.

When Kyla Lee, one of the property owners, read the original CBC story about council's decision, she was "outraged."

"I thought it was absolutely absurd that the city wasn't going to allow these students to do something that sends a message of inclusivity, not just to the LGBT community, but to everybody," she said.

"I think it's an issue of let's call out the City of Merritt for this silly stupid mistake," said fellow property owner and lawyer Paul Doroshenko.

Lee and Doroshenko work together in Vancouver. They often go to Merritt for court proceedings, and because property is so expensive in Vancouver, they both wanted to purchase land outside the Lower Mainland. 

"I thought if I find some communities in British Columbia that maybe will expand one day or there will be some prospects of the property values going up, I'll buy something there," Lee said. 

When two adjoining parking lots in Merritt became available a couple of years ago, Lee asked Doroshenko if he'd buy one, and he agreed. 

Lee sent an email to School District 58 on Friday morning to offer the use of her private parking lots.

Having recently spoken with a friend about the struggles her peers faced in high school with coming out, Lee felt this was her opportunity to contribute to the LGBTQ community in a positive way.

She told Doroshenko about her plan, and he agreed.

"You've got these lovely high school students who are recognizing the diversity in their own school, recognizing the desire to have greater acceptance of people," Doroshenko said.

"They want to make a statement about it. Why would the city want to discourage these people?"

In addition to the space, Doroshenko said they'd each give the students $500 to go toward painting the pavement.

School board president Gordon Comeau said he's been getting emails and text messages from people all over the province voicing their support for the students and the crosswalk.

"I think it shows that there's a lot more interest and support for the students," he said.

Comeau said the school board will discuss the offer at their next meeting on March 14.

"We'll just weigh all the options and see what's best," he said.

Comeau said with the public response to council's rejection, he hopes council will reconsider and the students will get to have the crosswalk at the intersection of Chapman Street and Coldwater Avenue,  close to the high school.

"When people go to Merritt this summer, somewhere in Merritt there's going to be either a rainbow path or rainbow crosswalk, and I'm looking forward to seeing it," Doroshenko said.

About the Author

Courtney Dickson

Broadcast and Digital Journalist

Courtney Dickson is a journalist working in Kamloops, B.C. Email her at courtney.dickson@cbc.ca with story tips.