British Columbia

Vernon councillor says city wading into 'culture wars' with 'divisive' rainbow crosswalk

A city councillor in Vernon, B.C., is accusing his colleagues of trying "to wade into the culture wars" by approving a pair of rainbow crosswalks in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Coun. Scott Anderson calls for 'neutral' crosswalk after voting against rainbow versions

A rainbow crosswalk in New Westminster, B.C. Vernon city council was almost unanimous in approving two rainbow crosswalks for its city. (Supplied)

A city councillor in Vernon, B.C., is accusing his colleagues of trying "to wade into the culture wars" by approving a pair of rainbow crosswalks in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Coun. Scott Anderson was the lone vote against the two crosswalks. In a speech to council he said they were a "divisive" issue, and 80 per cent of messages he received were against them.

"Identity politics has done more damage to social relations in North America in recent years than anything else I can think of. And there's a reason for that: it emphasizes differences rather than things we share," he said.

"A former prime minister once said that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, yet here we are contemplating painting the bedrooms of the nation in the middle of the street. It is not the business of any level of government to wade into the culture wars."

Anderson said council would not have supported a religious group asking for a faith symbol being painted on city property. He said if the city wanted to paint a symbol, "it should be a neutral symbol and not a symbol attached to an ideological or moral cause."

He suggested a Canadian flag crosswalk instead.

Proponent pleased by other councillor's votes

Travis Irmen addressed council during its Monday meeting. He was in favour of the crosswalks and said Anderson's comments were ill-informed.

"He brought up several points that I don't believe were of educated backing. [They] were more opinion-focused," he said.

But Irmen said he was happy with the decision and was a little surprised council approved both crosswalks, expecting it to be more of a one-or-the-other situation. He says having the rainbow crosswalks is important.

"I've heard that Vernon and the surrounding area can be considered the Bible Belt of B.C., which has a stigma to it that it doesn't feel inclusive," he told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"I would like to see it in Enderby, Armstrong, or just every community letting people know that they are supported, valued and included in their community."

The cost of creating the crosswalks will be borne by a local business, Caliber Sport Systems, and the City will pay for upkeep.

One will go on a pedestrian pathway near the downtown transit exchange, while the other one will be at a popular downtown intersection. The crosswalks will be completed in the spring of 2017.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West


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