British Columbia

Pride bench unveiled in B.C. village where council refused rainbow crosswalk

Village council in Valemount, B.C. denied a request for a rainbow crosswalk three years ago and one business owner decided it was time for a community symbol of LGBT recognition.

Cafe owner wants recognition for LGBT community and is fed up waiting for municipal action

The rainbow bench at The Gathering Place in Valemount, B.C., includes the meaning of each colour of the pride flag. (Andrew Kurjata)

The main street in the mountain village of Valemount, B.C., has a new splash of colour this week.

A rainbow bench has been installed outside The Gathering Tree, a popular cafe on 5th Avenue near the intersection where community members had requested council put in a rainbow crosswalk in 2016.

That request was denied — and after waiting three years for council to reverse its decision, cafe owner Sherral Shaw decided to take matters into her own hands.

Shaw bought a rainbow bench online and over the weekend she set it up proudly on her cafe's private patio. 

"I believe it's time Valemount recognized the LGBTQ community," Shaw told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. "They are a group of people that live in our community and all they want is recognition."

It's not the first time residents of Valemount have symbolically tried to show their appreciation for the village's LGBT members. In August 2016, after council denied the crosswalk request, dozens of people crept onto 5th Avenue under the cover of night and drew one in chalk.

But chalk washes away in the rain and Shaw wanted something permanent.

Community members uncover the rainbow bench on The Gathering Tree patio. (Facebook/Valemount Rainbow Crosswalk and Pride)

"You won't be able to miss that bench when you drive by," said Shaw. "It's a symbol of acceptance for them to show everyone that passes by that we accept this community."

Shaw's rainbow bench also features the words that each colour represents: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunshine, green for nature, blue for harmony and purple for spirit.

Shaw hopes her bench will educate people and spark conversation.

"I am hoping when people read those words it triggers something inside that they will want to look into it a little bit more and see what those colours mean and why," she said.

Shaw is optimistic council will come around to the idea of a crosswalk soon as council members have changed since the original request was denied.

And she says she's ready if anyone in the community takes issue with her new patio furniture.

"I am willing to take that on when it happens, if it happens," she said.

To hear the complete interview with Sherral Shaw click on the audio link below:

With files from Daybreak North

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