What started as an art project with her daughter, Maggie, has taken on a larger dimension for one Sidney mother.
“We were working on a picture with a rainbow in it and having a discussion about what a rainbow can mean when we came up with the idea. We decided to ask the mayor to have his own rainbow painted on one of our streets to help show support for the diverse population of Sidney,” explained Christy Smith.
Rainbow crosswalks have been installed across Canada in recent years as a show of acceptance and solidarity with the LGBTQ communities and other populations that have been targeted with discrimination.
“It really was a spontaneous decision to write the mayor a letter and go with Maggie down to City Hall and give him a gift of our picture and our request,” said Smith.
In her letter, Smith explained how she and her daughter moved to Sidney last year and have been pleased with the community’s efforts to support growth, inclusiveness and community engagement. She explained that she and Maggie had become active participants in community events and have been struck with the diversity of the community and acceptance of that diversity by Sidney’s residents.
Although the Mayor wasn’t available when they arrived at City Hall, the duo dropped off their letter and the carefully coloured picture and were hopeful that it would receive a favourable response.
It read, in part, read: “We hope you will consider our picture (and this email) a formal request to install a Rainbow Crosswalk in Sidney, ideally in a highly visible location like Beacon Avenue. A Rainbow crosswalk would help foster more acceptance, diversity, conversation and inclusion in our community. Plus, it would be a cheerful visual reminder, and a proven attraction, to draw people to our community core for photo opportunities that celebrate diversity.”
Although Smith does not personally identify as a member of the LGBTQ community, she views herself as an ally of the movement to eliminate discrimination against any portion of the community.
“It’s about stepping up to support inclusiveness; about children all being able to grow up feeling safe,” said Smith.
“We see it in the news all the time. Examples of discrimination and children and others feeling threatened. We have to speak up say ‘that’s not OK.’”
While Smith’s request is that Sidney consider painting a crosswalk on Beacon Avenue, she is open to other locations if a better spot can be found.
“I do want it to be visible to the greatest number of people possible,” she said.
Mayor Steve Price has responded to Smith’s request, saying that he has no objection to the rainbow crosswalk on any philosophical level and is supportive of the concept and the inclusivity that it represents.
He said that he will refer the request to Sidney’s Engineering Department with a request that they come back to council with a report.
“We want to have all the facts regarding the costs and issues like safety concerns for example. We would also have to consider where a crosswalk of this kind might best be located,” said Price.
He suggested that the rainbow crosswalk might be better located near a school in Sidney so that it might become a vehicle to spark discussion with students about the issue of inclusivity and discrimination.
Councillor Peter Wainwright weighed in on Smith’s request as well, with a slightly less nuanced response.
He said that he supported the concept as something the new council should consider. He said the initiative would not be overly expensive and should simply be placed in the 2019 budget.
For the time being, Smith will wait and see how her request is finally handled, but the young mother is not about to let the matter drop.
“It’s important to empower advocacy for change when it’s needed and I intend on doing my part to raise the next generation to love one another’s differences, stand up for diversity and advocate for inclusiveness,” said Smith.
“Maggie is too young to participate in this debate as yet, but she loves rainbows and understands and embraces diversity. I want to help create a world where that goes beyond childhood.”