By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
With Pride Week starting later this month, PFLAG has asked municipalities across Durham Region to implement rainbow crosswalks.
Jake Farr, a member of PFLAG, spoke to the region’s works committee about installing rainbow crosswalks in show of support for Pride as it makes its way to Durham from May 27 to June 4.
PFLAG Canada Durham Region is an organization which provides support, education and resources on the issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.
It is also the only non-profit LGBTQ direct support and service provider in Durham according to their website.
According to Farr, the organization provides support to 250 community members every month, and logs 20,000 volunteer hours every year.
Farr told the committee there is a “vibrant and hidden” LGBTQ community in Durham Region, and having rainbow crosswalks during Pride Week would be a good show of support.
He notes statistically with one in 10 people being LGBTQ, in 2020 when the region’s population is expected to hit 800,000, there will be 80,000 members of the LGBTQ community in Durham Region.
Farr told council, “A Pride crosswalk can be a lifesaver… it can be a symbol of belonging.”
According to Farr, companies are engaging in communities which are also engaging with inclusion, and many Canadian municipalities have already painted crosswalks in honour of Indigenous peoples and other groups.
Locally, Clarington is preparing to unveil their rainbow crosswalks already.
Ajax regional councillor Marilyn Crawford noted she had already spoken to Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier after seeing the issue on the agenda, and said Ajax is already on board.
Oshawa’s Ward 2 regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri moved the topic be sent to staff for referral.
PFLAG representative Erin Broadfoot made a request for a crosswalk to Oshawa’s community services committee.
Broadfoot said the LGBTQ community in the city is strong, but often forgotten, especially youth.
She said homelessness and suicide rates are much higher within LGBTQ youth than other groups.
“It’s because they do not feel like they belong, and are told they do not belong,” she said.
Broadfoot’s daughter is openly gay, and her family has always been very supportive of her lifestyle.
However, Broadfoot said people have said her daughter is “lucky” to have such support – something that strikes her oddly.
“How is somebody said to be lucky to be supported for who they are in their everyday life?” she asked committee members.
Installing a crosswalk would be a remedy to this in her opinion.
“Help us send a message of inclusion. Stand up, acknowledge, and show support for those who are often ignored and marginalized,” Broadfoot stated.
Addressing the potential for opposition, namely from religious groups, Broadfoot said, “LGBTQ [persons] are part of every community. This is a community that has no borders and is part of every other community that exists.”
“I can’t believe it would offend anybody,” she added.
Broadfoot said based on similar projects in other municipalities, the cost to the city is estimated at around $8,000.
PFLAG has not suggested a specific location for the crosswalk, although Broadfoot believes a section of Athol Street which will be undergoing construction would be appropriate.
Responding to a question from Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson, Broadfoot said there has been no evidence provided that rainbow crosswalks can cause safety issues for either motorists or pedestrians.
In terms of funding, Ward 5 city councillor John Gray asked if PFLAG could fundraise some of the money.
Broadfoot said the organization is suffering “extreme losses” in funding that has been directed to them in the past.
“We are very much struggling to make ends meet to continue programs…,” she said, adding it would be not implausible but “very difficult” for PFLAG to fundraise the money.
– with files from Dave Flaherty