Petition calls for new painted crosswalk in Northern Canada to represent racial identities

A crosswalk in downtown Whitehorse represents the classic rainbow Pride flag designed in 1978. A new petition is calling for another painted crosswalk to represent the LGTBTQ community as well as Black and Indigenous people and people of colour. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
The mayor of Whitehorse says he’s fully on board to expand upon the city’s existing rainbow and transgender Pride flag crosswalks.

This comes as 481 people have signed an online petition calling for the intersection at Main and Front Street to be painted with new flags or stripe patterns to represent racial identities, both within and outside of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

Mayor Dan Curtis immediately said yes at a council meeting this week.

“I don’t need a petition to know this is a great idea,” he said.

Mellisa Murray says she feels confident after seeing council’s reaction. ‘I started the petition to get people talking,’ she said. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
Local businesses sign letters of support

Whitehorse resident Mellisa Murray started the online campaign. On Monday she presented council with a written statement and letters of support. This includes support from some businesses which are near the crosswalk she’s proposing.

Her statement, read to council, says the crosswalks would be more than decorative.

“The urgency of this project is crucial. Systemic racism is not something that exists only outside the bubble of our city, but rather something present within our community,” she wrote.

Murray said her original idea was for Whitehorse to paint a street in support of Black Lives Matter.

“I started the petition to get people talking. I felt like after the murder of George Floyd in the U.S. there wasn’t much happening in Whitehorse,” she said.

This Whitehorse crosswalk represents the transgender Pride flag designed in 1999. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
New flags represent racial identity, racism, transphobia

One proposed design would be the Progress Pride Flag, a recent update to the rainbow Pride flag which adds a reference to racial identity and transphobia.

That flag is currently flying before the Yukon Legislative Assembly and City Hall in Whitehorse.

During a recent flag raising, Joe Wickenhauser, executive director of the Yukon Pride Centre, said the flag is different than the rainbow flag, as it symbolizes the need for action against systemic racism and transphobia as well as “racism and transphobia that exists within the LGBTQ community.”

Murray’s petition suggests other flags be painted as well.

“I am proposing painting the crosswalks on Main Street and Front Street in downtown Whitehorse in support and to bringing awareness to ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Black Indigenous People of Colour’ and ‘Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Colour.’ The crosswalks would reflect the BIPOC and QTBIPOC flags,” reads the petition.

The two latter flags are relatively new designs which represent skin tones with black, brown and pink stripes.

The idea, Murray says, is to “have an updated version of the new rainbow flag, and include the black and the red in there.”

The ‘Progress Pride Flag,’ shown here, is one design suggested for a Whitehorse crosswalk. Joe Wickenhauser, executive director of the Yukon Pride Centre, says it symbolizes the need for action against systemic racism and transphobia. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
Previous crosswalks cost $7K to paint

Curtis said it might take some time to get the right colours and stencils.

One issue for the city has been finding paint which can resist traffic, scraping from snow clearance and intentional vandalism such as tire skidding.

Council heard that the existing rainbow and transgender flag crosswalks downtown cost around $7,000 to paint.

No city councillors spoke against the idea this week, though some questions were raised about procedure, budget and the exact design being proposed.

The petition calls for the crosswalks to be permanent.

Mayor Curtis went one further, promising the crosswalks would be there for 1,000 years.

“I want to get it done right, I want to get it done so we’ll have it there for a millennium,” Curtis said.

Philippe Morin, CBC News

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