The corner of Front and Main streets in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, where a petition submitted to city hall is hoping for the Black, Indigenous and people of colour flag and the queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour flag colours will be painted on the crosswalks. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Delegate calls for crosswalk changes to show support for people of colour

Mayor states support for idea, but cautions it could take some time

A petition — with upward of 500 names attached — is calling on the City of Whitehorse for crosswalks reflecting the flags for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and for queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour (QTBIPOC).

The petition, along with letters of support from five downtown businesses that are near the proposed crosswalk flags at Front and Main streets, came forward in a submission by Mellisa Murray at Whitehorse city council’s Aug. 3 meeting. With council meetings closed to in-person delegations due to health and safety measures around COVID-19, city clerk Norma Felker read Murray’s submission.

Murray highlighted the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while he was being arrested.

“People around the world, including in our city, have taken to the streets in peaceful protests against the criminal justice system, police brutality and systemic racism,” Murray wrote. “I, along with hundreds of supporters from multiracial and intergenerational backgrounds, have come together to stand up to this inequality.”

The queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour flag suggested as one of the flags to be painted on the crosswalk at Main and Front Street.

For change to happen in the community there needs to be awareness, education and visibility, she continued, then proposing the crosswalks be permanently painted to reflect the two flags.

She went on to note the city’s work in 2017 to install the rainbow and transgender flags for the crosswalks at Third and Main streets to demonstrate support for diversity and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community.

In putting forward Front and Main streets as the preferred location, Murray noted it is a busy location with significant foot traffic.

“The urgency of this project is crucial; systemic racism is not something that only exists outside the bubble of our city, but rather something present within our community,” she wrote, highlighting recent vandalism to two Black Lives Matter signs around town. “The crosswalk project would be a daily visual reminder that we are all fighting for equality and justice. With summer coming to an end, I implore that this project be executed as soon as possible so that it can be displayed before winter.”

While support for the idea was evident among council members, Mayor Dan Curtis also said it’s something that could take some time to do properly.

“I don’t need a petition to know this is a good idea,” the mayor said.

The Black, Indigenous and people of colour flag suggested as one of the flags to be painted on the crosswalk at Main and Front Street.

He then recalled the challenges that came in installing the crosswalk flags supporting the LGBTQ+ community, noting that the original paint used for the flags quickly deteriorated thanks to vehicle wear over the crosswalks.

The city eventually ended up budgeting more $6,000 to purchase permanent crosswalk paint for the flags to be painted about a year later and even then there were challenges and some delay in getting particular colours.

“It will take a little bit of time,” Curtis said, noting his desire to ensure the BIPOC and QTBIPOC flags are installed properly and permanently for the city.

“I want to get it done right,” he said.

Others also voiced their support for the proposal with Coun. Steve Roddick stating he’s looking forward to work on the crosswalk advancing.

Questioned by Coun. Jan Stick about cost, city manager Linda Rapp said she expects it would likely cost in the $7,000 range based on the cost of the Third and Main crosswalks and the decals that would be needed in this case.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

racismWhitehorse city council

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