Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen weighs in on Springdale crosswalk decision

Following a strong reaction to news that Springdale's town council voted against a rainbow crosswalk last week, the mayor of a city that's had one since 2016 is speaking out.

LGBTQ advocate Gemma Hickey also dismayed by town's decision

Students at Indian River High School had petitioned Springdale's town council to install a rainbow crosswalk near the school. (Submitted)

In cities across the province like St. John's and Corner Brook, councils have voted strongly in favour of installing rainbow crosswalks.

But not in the small community of Springdale, and following a strong and vocal reaction to news the town's council voted against a crosswalk last week, the mayor of St. John's and an LGBTQ advocate are speaking out.

Springdale's town council voted 4-3 against a proposal from the Gender-Sexuality Alliance at Indian River High School on April 9.

St. John's voted to install a rainbow crosswalk for the first time in 2016 and painted another one last summer.

"We've become quite a diverse population here in the city, and I think it's important to us to celebrate that diversity and make sure that we're a welcoming community," said mayor Danny Breen

Activist Gemma Hickey agrees. They believe painting a crosswalk to show solidarity is a small step that can make a big difference.

"LGBTQ2 Youth are part of an invisible minority, which is why it's very important for communities to have signs and symbols around that are inclusive and that are diverse,' said Hickey.

Small gestures make a difference 

Painting a crosswalk in a diverse city like St. John's is one thing, said Hickey, but a gesture like that in a small community like Springdale could make an even bigger difference.

"Youth who are dealing with sexuality and gender identity have a higher rate of suicide, they're bullied in schools, and this is happening more so, based on my own research and in terms of the outreach that I've done, in rural communities," said Hickey.

Likewise, Breen doesn't echo Springdale mayor Dave Edison's concerns that a crosswalk might create division in his town.

He said by and large the public has embraced and supported efforts for a crosswalk 

Springdale's town council plans to meet with students from the Gender-Sexuality Alliance on Monday to reconsider their proposal.

In a statement released Friday, the GSA said they are waiting until Monday before commenting further.

With files from Garrett Barry