Merritt students angered over council's rejection of rainbow crosswalk

By Chad Klassen
March 2, 2018 - 5:39pm

KAMLOOPS — Kayleigh Antoine-Peters was not impressed with Merritt city council, which rejected a proposed rainbow crosswalk in front of Merritt Secondary School on Tuesday. 

Antoine-Peters and other students part of the proposal spoke out on Friday, expressing their disappointment over council's decision and the city's overall lack of progress. She identifies as LGBTQ2S, in her case pansexual, and her two aunts who are also part of that group. 

"My family is very accepting because I have two aunts who are two-spirited, which is what the 2S means at the end. They really like the idea of a rainbow crosswalk because one of my aunts, who passed away recently, would've absolutely loved it," said Antoine-Peters. 

At Tuesday night's meeting, Merritt city council voted down the crosswalk in a close 4-3 vote. Mayor Neil Menard noted it could open up a pandora's box, but he also felt the majority of the community wasn't behind the idea. 

"For me, it wasn't just the pandora's box that a whole bunch of other organizations are going to want to put crosswalks all over the place. That was part of it," said Menard. "The other part of it was some of the stuff that was said to me by folks that are not totally supportive of the pride organization. I'm certainly not opposed to it. I don't always understand what's it all about. I thought about it and talked to some people that I thought understood it and said 'I'm having diffculty with it and I don't think I can support it.' So I didn't."

The students, part of the LGBTQ2S club at Merritt Secondary School, have been working on the proposal for months, a crosswalk that would've been painted at the corner of Coldwater Avenue and Chapman Street right in front of the school. 

"A lot of us felt very disappointed. There's some anger around this. We had been hoping for a bit more of a positive response," said Merritt Secondary School student Tirza Lara. 

Chair of School Board 58 Gordon Comeau says the students worked hard on the proposal and he felt council made the wrong decision. 

"I'm hoping that council may want to reconsider, reflect on this a little. We'd be more than willing to talk to them and talk about what we'd be willing to do to support some of the issues and concerns that they've talked about," said Comeau.

Menard says he's willing to reconsider, but notes councillors have been receiving threats from community members who are anger about the 'no' decision. He's also received constructive emails from those in support of the crosswalk. 

For Antoine-Peters, a rainbow crosswalk would mean inclusivity and acceptance for everyone living in Merritt. 

"This would mean everything," she said. "There are so many small minds with this town. I was hoping that it would evolve to accept everyone, so there aren't teenagers who are scared because of who they are, and are accepted for who they love and don't love."

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