Nfld. & Labrador

Why there is no LGBTQ-friendly rainbow crosswalk in Springdale

The mayor of a small town in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is worried that a rainbow crosswalk will sow division in his community.

Town council votes 4-3 against motion from Indian River High School students

Students at Indian River High School in the Gender Sexuality Alliance had their request for a rainbow crosswalk in front of the school denied by Springdale's town council. (Indian River High School/Twitter)

Painting crosswalks the colours of the rainbow is a common way for cities to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community, but the mayor of a small town in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is worried that doing so in his town will create further division.

If a church came to me, or a group of coloured people wanted to request something, we would be saying the same thing.- Mayor Dave Edison

Earlier this month, the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Indian River High School in Springdale submitted an application to the town's council asking for support painting a crosswalk next to the school.

But the town voted against the proposal with a 4-3 vote at a meeting on April 9.

Mayor Dave Edison says the town will allow students from Indian River High School to make their case in person at next week's council meeting. (CBC)

"It's nothing to do with gender, sexuality choice," said mayor Dave Edison Thursday.

"I know for me personally I accept everyone, but I don't want to segregate, and I certainly don't want to use tax dollars to do so."

He said his response would have been the same if a different group had requested special treatment.

"If a church came to me, or a group of coloured people wanted to request something, we would be saying the same thing."

In previous years, Corner Brook and St. John's have both painted crosswalks in rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQ community.

Giving students another chance to make case

Edison said the town's council plans to give the Indian River students another chance to present their proposal in person at this Monday's council meeting.

Corner Brook and St. John's have previously painted crosswalks in rainbow colours as a tribute to the LGBTQ community. (Brian McHugh/CBC)

He voted against the proposal, and said he wasn't sure it represented the majority views of the school's population.

By his estimate, there are about 250 students at the school, but only 20 of them signed the proposal that made it to town hall.

"We had 10 per cent ... from the people in that school," said Edison.

"You talk about division? Where were the other 90 per cent who were not on that list."

Former student disappointed

Ryan Reid is a former student at the high school who graduated more than 10 years ago.

He's gay and disappointed in his town's response, even as it doesn't come as a shock.

"It's not a big surprise when you've been fighting this battle as long as someone like me has," said Reid.

Ryan Reid, a former student at Indian River High School, says he's not surprised by the town's decision on the rainbow crosswalk. (Martin Jones/CBC)

He recently spoke to the Gender Sexuality Alliance at his old high school and said he hopes they don't give up their fight.

"If you really believe in something fight for it. They're a very lucky generation, different from mine, a lot more has happened, there's more progress," said Reid.

"But we can never be still in progress and think that everything is ok now, there's still a lot of work to be done."

He said he understands why some people might think painting a crosswalk in a rainbow is a small gesture, but that it's an act of inclusion that can make some people feel less alone.

"A rainbow crosswalk isn't going to change the world. I understand that. But it's making little changes in our communities so that people growing up as LGBTQ persons, unlike when i was growing up in this community, can see that they have a space and that their voices will be heard more than ever."

Students ready to meet with council

On Friday, student members of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance at Indian River High School issued a statement saying the town had been unfairly criticized.

"We look forward to Monday's council meeting, where we will have the opportunity to provide further information and education to members on the concept of a rainbow crosswalk," read the statement.

"While we appreciate the support offered by the public, we feel some of the more negative comments and name-calling are not productive,"  wrote the GSA. 

"As a group, we are committed to a respectful, informed discussion for the betterment of our entire community."