General News » News

Rainbow Crosswalk hailed as “important symbol” for community

August 28, 2020   ·   0 Comments

As far as walks go, it was a relatively short one, but it was a step in the right direction for Aurora, according to dignitaries and community members who gathered at Yonge and Wellington on Thursday for the unveiling of the Town’s new Rainbow Crosswalk.

Featuring the colours of the Pride flag, the Rainbow Crosswalk, which was approved by Council last month, is intended to be a landmark to show that Aurora is an “accepting community and welcoming of all,” according to Mayor Tom Mrakas.

With a price tag of $12,600, the lion’s share of which was funded through an anonymous donation made to the Town of Aurora, the Rainbow Crosswalk has not been without controversy since first proposed in a motion to Council by Mayor Mrakas, but representatives from all levels of government and stakeholder organizations accentuated the positive at last week’s unveiling.

“Symbols are very important and people have the opportunity to rally around symbols,” said Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MP Leona Alleslev, who was joined at the dedication by Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MPP Michael Parsa, Mayor Mrakas, and Councillors Wendy Gaertner, Rachel Gilliland, Sandra Humfryes, Harold Kim, and Michael Thompson.

“To have this gorgeous crosswalk in the middle of Aurora where everyone can see it every day at one of the highest traffic and pedestrian places gives us that inspiration and reminds us of just how important everyone in our community is.”

This was a sentiment shared by Tristan Coolman, President of Pflag York Region, who has been an active proponent of Aurora’s Rainbow Crosswalk.

“Growing up, you never thought something like this was possible,” said Mr. Coolman. “It is one thing to see it in Toronto and to walk through Toronto and feel affirmed there, but to see it in your own backyard is absolutely phenomenal. I think it means the world to the community. It is obviously affirming to the LGBTQ community and also, as Councillor Kim spoke to in Council a couple of weeks ago, this has meaning for a number of different communities and a number of different life experiences. Whether you see it as something that is overtly about Pride and celebrating Pride, or whether you see it otherwise, the overall message is love and acceptance and to see yourself reflected in this community.”

“I think it shows there is a commitment to affirming LGBTQ lived experiences,” he added, not only of the Rainbow Crosswalk itself, but the levels of government represented at the event. “Symbolism is incredibly important because, like many lived experiences that make up the community, some people can go home and still have those life-affirming lifestyles at home and some people within the queer community can’t do that because they are still hiding from their family, unsure of how they are going to react when they need to protect themselves. Any time someone walks across this, they can know they are welcomed in our community.”

Building a “compassionate community” is one of the top goals of CAYR Community Connections, formerly the AIDS Committee of York Region, an organization which has also hailed the Rainbow Crosswalk.

This, according to Executive Director Marie Morton, is a potent symbol and one which, despite some naysayers, has been greeted as a “fantastic” initiative.

“It is the community coming together and people can assign their own positive meaning to it,” said Ms. Morton. “It is beautiful, it is embracing a community that has been really marginalized and that is a great thing and where we want to be as a society. I always think it is worth saying that even though this is one small thing and some people might say it is a token or symbolic, I think it is worth taking those small steps, making the effort and, [saying] ‘Okay, here’s one thing and now we’re going to do something else.’ We just keep building that momentum and even small, symbolic things are worth the effort.”

Following the ceremony, Mayor Mrakas issued a statement reiterating why he brought the motion forward in the first place, noting the intent of the Rainbow Crosswalk is to “provide a permanent symbol” of the Town’s “commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.”

“The Town of Aurora is a community that embodies diversity and inclusiveness and is committed to the Inclusion Charter initiatives of creating a sense of belonging in the community and reducing hate crimes,” he said. “The Town is focused on creating an environment where everyone is equal, and the approved Rainbow [Crosswalk] shows Council’s support for the LGBTQ+ community. Aurora supports living in a harmonious, cohesive environment where we all have the utmost respect and honour for each other.”

And this is a great example for the wider community as well, noted MP Van Bynen.

“It is great to have reminders like this to talk about how we, as human beings, should be inclusive, should be embracing, and rejoice in our differences,” he said. “I think the entire community should think about how we respect that people are different, should think about how everyone contributes to our society. It is a great reminder that we live in a world of beautiful differences.”

By Brock Weir



Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support