In September of 2019, a proposal to install a rainbow crosswalk in the city of Chilliwack, British Columbia was voted down by the city council. Dissenters argued that such a crosswalk would be seen as a "political statement" and would be "divisive," but according to Yahoo! News, that hasn't stopped people from installing 16 of them on privately owned property.
And as is often the case with social justice issues, Indigenous people in the area have led the way. Back in August, two rainbow crosswalks were painted at a shopping center development on Squiala First Nation land, and two more have since been painted on Tzeachten First Nation land.
"The city does not have jurisdiction over our lands so we are free to paint them to demonstrate our support for being an inclusive community," Dave Jimmie, president of the Ts'elxweyeqw Tribe, told Maple Ridge News. "I have also recently lost a friend from the LGBTQ community so this is truly near and dear to my heart," he added.
Alison Tedford, a member of the Kwakiutl nation who lives in a neighboring town told Upworthy, "It's exciting to see so much support for the LGBTQ community, and a community-driven warm welcome." She adds that she's delighted but not surprised to see leadership coming from First Nations on this issue. "I think as Indigenous people we have experienced marginalization, and to see collaboration between marginalized communities is positive, as well as to see Indigenous LGBTQ people supported by their own community leadership is powerful."
Another rainbow crosswalk was installed at the Chilliwack School District office.
And 11 more have been painted or planned by residents of Chilliwack.
Marty van den Bosch shared a photo of a crosswalk he and his wife had painted on their private property with a message about why they felt it was important.
"To me, diversity is important.
We have a large cross section of people that live in our country, and in our city.
Each and every one of us are different, often in many ways.
I do my best to treat people based on their actions, and their words, not on things like their sexual orientation, race or any other attributes they were born as.
In light of recent events, Kristy and I have decided to paint a rainbow crosswalk on our own property. A bright and beautiful 38 foot rainbow, to show our support.
I support the belief that everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of our differences. If you wish to judge someone, judge them on how they speak of and treat others."
Amber Price, a local resident who spearheaded the effort to get city council to approve a crosswalk, says she'd love to see the town recognized as a world record holder for the most rainbow sidewalks.
"The surge in rainbow crosswalks at our local schools sends a beautifully clear message to our LGBTQ2+ youth," Price told the Chilliwack Progress, "'We see you. We support you. We celebrate you. You are loved'."
Other cities in British Columbia and other Canadian provinces have installed rainbow sidewalks as symbols of solidarity with the LGBTQ2+ community. And for those worried about safety, the city of Edmonton determined during their Rainbow Crosswalk Pilot program that pedestrian safety was not negatively impacted by the color of the sidewalks. In fact, their report stated that "observed motorist behaviour was consistent with the survey findings where people felt the rainbow crosswalks made intersections safer and were not a distraction."
For LGBTQ folks, a visual reminder that they are seen and loved can only be a good thing. And for those who are bothered by the crosswalks, just enjoy the pretty colors and be thankful for those striving to make the world a kinder place.