It is hard to fathom how one 42 square metre patch of asphalt can be so controversial.
Big issues, with big price tags, are routinely debated in Town Council with nary a peep from the public.
But try to paint a colourful crosswalk and council gets bombarded with letters. Some came right to the point that their opposition was on religious grounds, but religious arguments just don’t work like they used to, do they? So, most tried to couch it in more secular terms.
Let’s break down the arguments, shall we?
First, we can dismiss outright the argument that by publicly acknowledging the LGBTQ community we are excluding everybody else. This is just another form of the argument that somehow recognizing the rights of a marginalized group infringes on the majority, which is nonsense.
It’s akin to responding to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.”
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus didn’t say “blessed is everyone,” he said, “blessed are the poor.”
Ancillary to the exclusion argument is the suggestion that if we are going to acknowledge this one segment of the population, we should do so as part of a project that incorporates all of the diversity of community.
Aside from being impractical, this already exists in Smithers. Even as you are reading this, student art banners representing Wet’suwet’en Elder stories are being installed on the highway.
We have world flags representing the immigrants who make up the community gracing Main Street.
We have a cenotaph in Centennial Park honouring our veterans.
There are symbols all over town that speak to diversity.
Then there is the suggestion that we should not support the rainbow crosswalk because it only represents a small (but noisy) subset of the population.
This is the very definition of privilege. It is why we have systemic discrimination in this country. Even if we embrace majority rule over constitutional democracy, the majorityis not against this.
The crosswalk does not just represent the 10 (or so) per cent of people who actually identify with one (or more) of the letters in LGBTQ spectrum, but all their family members, allies and supporters.
Furthermore, poll after poll indicates overwhelming support for LGBTQ rights among the public as does the fact that virtually every town and city in the province now has rainbow crosswalks or other public symbols of acknowledgement.
There is only one argument that comes close to holding water, that council should not be financially supporting individual interest groups.
I could actually get on board with that as soon as we end permissive tax exemptions for churches—which is costing taxpayers $80,000 this year.
However, the argument has been made that churches benefit society as a whole.
If we accept that, which council obviously does, it is because, at least in part, they provide benefits to their members, a sense of community; moral goalposts; emotional, physical and spiritual support through challenging situations.
Precisely what Smithers Pride does for its constituency.
Emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy people are good for society.
In addition to churches and Pride, the Town financially supports the entire spectrum of community groups, sports clubs and service organizations through permissive tax exemptions to the tune of $317,000 a year, as well as through in-kind donations of staff time.
The Wet’suwet’en banners now gracing the highway did not put themselves up.
In a few months, Christmas decorations will not put themselves up.
Of course, everyone has the right to disapprove of lifestyles they don’t agree with and express their opinion.
Opposing the crosswalk on any other grounds, though, just seems disingenuous.
Not repainting the rainbow crosswalk this year was a financial decision due to the pandemic, not a political one.
Hopefully, it will be back again next year.