Fort McMurray's first rainbow crosswalk has been defaced with tire marks since it was painted last week, and police are now investigating inappropriate comments about the crosswalk posted online.
The municipality installed the colourful pedestrian crossing at Hardin Street and Biggs Avenue on July 23 at a cost of $10,000, after Pride YMM and the municipality's diversity and equality advisory committee asked for support for a number of initiatives.
Sithara Fernando, a member of Fort McMurray's LGBTQ+ community, noticed skid marks on the crosswalk Monday.
"I'm definitely angry about it," Fernando said.
Fernando came out as a lesbian this year after keeping her sexual orientation a secret for years. She's looking forward to celebrating Pride this year and even blogged about the crossing.
Meanwhile on social media, there have been several comments by people questioning why the crosswalk was needed.
Wood Buffalo RCMP Cpl. Erika Laird said police are investigating several "inappropriate comments" made online in reference to the crosswalk. RCMP would not elaborate on the nature of those comments.
Fernando challenged those opposed to the Pride symbol by saying it's still hard to identify publicly as LGBTQ+ in a northern Albertan town.
"Just to be really frank, it is not illegal in any country in the world to be heterosexual," Fernando said. "It is definitely illegal in places to homosexual."
'Not what Fort McMurray is about'
Pride celebrations have returned to Fort McMurray after a hiatus of a number of years. Events will take place on August 26.
Coun. Tyran Ault, who worked behind the scenes to get the crosswalk installed, said residents shouldn't let the actions of a few ruin the celebrations.
"It's definitely disappointing to see the burnouts happen," Ault said. "But that's not what Fort McMurray is about."
Ault said most reaction to the crosswalk has been positive and he sees many people visiting the location to take pictures.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo spokesperson Nicole Power condemned the tire marks.
"The marks on the crosswalk, if deliberate — and some of the negative comments on social media — are disappointing," Power said in written statement.
"But these acts show the rest of us that even in a community as diverse of this one, there's still more work to be done to ensure that it's truly inclusive for all residents."
She also said the crosswalk was designed to withstand tire marks and will wash away over time.