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Rainbow crosswalk rides again
City lays paint in support of LGBTQ community for second year

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

For the second year in a row, the City of Yellowknife is painting the town red. And also blue. And orange, yellow, pink, green, purple and white.

The crosswalk in front of City Hall, at the intersection of 49 Avenue and 52 Street, is sporting a rainbow crosswalk for the second year in a row.

"I think it's a way for the community government to recognize and support our LGBTQ community," Mayor Mark Heyck said.

While the City has supported the annual NWT Pride weekend and flown the Pride flag in the past, Heyck said they wanted to give the crosswalk its moment in the sun after seeing similar initiatives in other cities.

The fact that it was the City's idea makes a difference, said NWT Pride president Jackie Siegel.

"It came as a bit of a surprise to us that it was happening, which was awesome ... It's all a City of Yellowknife initiative," said Siegel. "Our city does a very good job of expressing its support towards diversity and support toward the queer community. So we're very happy that it came from them and that it continues to come from them. Any symbol of recognition and unity with the LGBTQ community in Yellowknife and outside of Yellowknife as well means a lot to us."

The rainbow Pride flag has been flying high since 1978 when it was originally designed by artist Gilbert Baker with eight different colours, each with a specific meaning. Today, it normally includes six stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

The Yellowknife crosswalk includes nine bands of colour, but Siegel said he's pretty sure people will still get the point.

"I'm sure most people know that this is a pride thing," he said. " Not only is it visually pleasing, but (it's saying) 'Hey, we know that there are queer people in this city, and you're as much a part of this community as anybody else. And here's a token of recognition.'"

The flag itself is still evolving; this year, a new flag including a black and brown stripe to represent the inclusion of people of colour in the LGBTQ community was raised in Philadelphia.

Both Siegel and Heyck said while there are no immediate plans to add colours or change the crosswalk next year, it's still a possibility in the future.

Since last year, both say the response has been supportive.

"People were posting pictures on social media and talking about how proud they were of their community, so it's been (an) overwhelming positive response," said Heyck.

Not everyone was onboard with tasting the rainbow, however. Last year, Brock (Rocky) Parsons wrote, in a letter published in Yellowknifer, that it was "quite a surprise" to see the crosswalk painted as he described it with "gay rainbow flags" close to the Anglican church.

"I wonder if city hall, to dispel any thought of bias or preferential treatment, would allow the church to paint crosses on the steps of city hall? I think not," wrote Parsons. "The arrogance of power will tell us what is acceptable."

Heyck isn't sweating the shade however.

"We're a very progressive community and tend to have been so for a long time," he said, adding that the city plans to continue to deck the crosswalk in rainbows in years to come.

For Siegel, the crosswalk is a good first step.

"There's always more that can be done. Visual symbols like the rainbow crosswalk or a rainbow flag or things like that are great tokens ... Now putting that into action there's a lot more than just those symbols - it's having policies that encourage diversity in the workplace and outside of the workplace policies that encourage safety and protect people from harassment," he said.

"That's a big chunk of work and it takes time. Certainly visual symbols are an important step, and they're a first step."

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