Chad Callander, vice president of the Pride London Festival, walks across one of London's rainbow cross walks to honour Pride London Festival, July 13, 2016. (Photo by Miranda Chant)

Rainbow Crosswalk ‘A Good First Step’

The CK Gay Pride Association says a rainbow crosswalk coming to downtown Chatham is a small victory, but there is still a long way to go.

After a close vote of 10-7, a motion was approved to install rainbow crosswalks at King St. and Second St. in Chatham by next spring or summer.

Vice President Chris Couture says the motion places Chatham in the top few communities to introduce rainbow crosswalks.

“I’m actually very proud that Chatham-Kent took the initiative to approve the crosswalk,” says Couture. “It’s a good first step. It shows that we talk about gay rights and transgender rights.”

However, the project will not actually see a dime from the municipality. After several objections from councillors concerned about tax dollars funding the project, an amendment was made to the motion, which calls for the community to contribute $2,000 to reimburse the municipal portion of funding.

“Although I wish the municipality would’ve not had that amendment, we did what we had to do to get it passed. We do have the money raised already, so it’s not a big deal… you can’t always get what you want,” says Couture.

During Monday’s council meeting, Councillor Michael Bondy was among several councillors to voice disapproval of the motion. He says the municipality will “open the flood gates” by passing this motion and fears that “the whole city will look like a rainbow” if the municipality gives into every group asking for recognition.

Couture says Councillor Bondy’s comments did not surprise him.

“It just lends to the whole reason why we should have a rainbow crosswalk — to have the conversation, so people don’t have to feel that there’s issues,” says Couture. “I believe conversation either good or bad is good to have, because people realize that it’s out in the open and people don’t have to hide any longer.”

Couture says it is all about starting the conversation of acceptance.

At the council meeting, Councillor Trevor Thompson suggested possibly bringing more rainbow crosswalks to different parts of Chatham-Kent, like Blenheim. Couture says he thinks this is a great idea and will fully support it.

Couture says the CK Gay Pride Association is also looking at potentially hosting a pride weekend in Chatham-Kent sometime in the near future with bouncy castles and other family friendly activities to normalize the LGBTQ community. He says he wants to show the community that gay or transgender people are not “gross.”