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Public can comment on potential rainbow crosswalk locations

Some councillors speak out for need to ask residents if they even desire to see multi-coloured crosswalks

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

About a year ago, the first conversation on bringing a rainbow crosswalk to the City of Oshawa took place in council chambers.

Since then, there have been numerous discussions and votes of confidence from the public, yet no multi-coloured paint has been laid in the municipality.

The city is now moving forward with an online survey to gauge public interest on three potential locations for the crosswalks.

The three spots residents can share their opinions on are adjacent to the main entrance of City Hall and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, a pedestrian crosswalk located near the intersection of William and Mary streets, and just west of the Jubilee Pavilion at Lakeview Park.

The original motion included a question to residents whether or not the city should install rainbow crosswalks, a step which puzzled Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson.

“We’ve been discussing this for more than a year. Asking that question shows we aren’t committed,” Nicholson said.

The veteran councillor said the possibility of not moving forward with a rainbow crosswalk has never been raised.

To him, if the issue continues to drag on, it would reflect badly on Oshawa.

“If this council was the only one in Durham Region not to recognize [the struggle of the LGBTQ2S+ community], I think that would be a black mark on this council, and the city, unfortunately,” he said, adding it shouldn’t be a question of “if,” but “where” and “when.”

However, other members of council wanted to ask the public its opinion.

“It’s important to ask the public whether they want such a thing,” noted Ward 5 city councillor John Gray, who admitted he is not a fan of rainbow crosswalks.

“I see these particular things as divisive and not inclusive,” he said.

Last year, rainbow crosswalks in Bowmanville were swiftly met with acts of vandalism, including graffiti and a motorist burning out their tires on the painted pavement.

Gray said in his view rainbow crosswalks provide the easy ability to express “hatred.”

“I think it opens up our community to further expressions of hate, I don’t want to see that,” he said.

He believes the city has taken many steps to show it is welcoming and inclusive.

Despite his personal feelings, Gray said he wanted to hear from Oshawa residents.

“I don’t think we need it, but I might be wrong. Maybe the public will confirm if this is necessary or not, because I’ve heard from people who think it is an enormous waste of money,” he said.
Ward 2 city councillor Jane Hurst agreed with Gray.

“Last time I checked, we live in a democratic society, and people have the right to give their opinions. Let’s ask the question,” she said.

Hurst finds it sad there’s a need to “put up symbols to advance the rights” of a community.

“Not everyone is keen on it, and they deserve the right to weigh in on it too,” Hurst said.

Ward 2 city and regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri said it was time to move forward.

He said regional council had a similar discussion last year, and once approved, a rainbow crosswalk was installed at Durham Region headquarters within weeks.

“I believe in community consultation, but I think at a certain point we need to make a decision,” he said.

Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson noted delegations made to council on the crosswalks have been overwhelmingly in favour, and council has already debated the matter at length.

Asking the question of whether people want the crosswalk could lead to “a small group of people to inundate the poll with a ‘no’ answer,” he added.

Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey said she has “no issue” with rainbow crosswalks, but wondered if the results of the survey would hold much weight.

“Are we just doing them to appease something, or do they have any merit?” she asked.

McConkey asked if staff would come back with a recommendation to council after the survey was done.

However, Mayor Dan Carter explained staff’s role in the survey was “gathering information.”

“That’s it… I want to make that clear… committee and council make the decision,” Carter said.

The mayor believes the time is soon to make that decision.

“I’m absolutely with councillor Marimpietri… it’s been 13 months. Let’s get it done. Enough is enough,” Carter said.

Council eventually voted to remove the “yes or no” question from the survey, with Gray, Hurst, McConkey, Ward 1 city and regional councillor John Neal, and Ward 3 city councillor Bradley Marks opposed.

It is expected the crosswalks will cost between $7,000 to $10,000 each.