"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rainbow logic supports rainbow crosswalk

Pride Flag: Strikingly similar to "diversity" crosswalk.
And so, Coquitlam will now have its very own “rainbow” crosswalk, lovingly applied along a strip of pedestrian pavement directly south of city hall at the western side of the intersection of Pinetree Way and Burlington Avenue. The multi-hued fixture will surely enliven the city hall precinct, even as it stands as a testament to some dubious decision-making and the power of virtue signalling.
Exactly what the rainbow crosswalk will officially stand for is still not quite settled. Reasonable folks, who are relatively familiar with recent history, might conclude that it is a sign of support for the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transexual-Questioning (LGBTQ) “community.” But the majority of council say this is not actually the case.
Rather, they say it is a sign of the city’s acceptance and even celebration of diversity. But, surely, such an assertion contradicts the rainbow crosswalk’s colourful history.
The idea to create rainbow crosswalks appears to have first emerged in West Hollywood as part of the 2012 Gay Pride Month celebrations. Why a rainbow? As Wikipedia says, “The rainbow flag or gay pride flag, is associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and LGBT activities around the world.”
The direct connection between the rainbow crosswalk and LGBT(Q) was just as clear when, in 2013, Vancouver unveiled Canada's first permanent rainbow crosswalk in the West End to help mark the city’s Pride Week. Councillor. Tim Stevenson explained that the crosswalk helped reflect the area's significance as the city’s “gay village”. He is quoted by the Georgia Straight as saying, “This really does mark the strongest support the city has ever shown towards the GLBTQ community.”
Now, given that council has a longstanding policy not to issue proclamations in support of any specific group or cause, and given that the installation of a rainbow crosswalk would surely constitute a de facto proclamation in support of the aforementioned “community,” one might conclude that Council would not, could not, and would never support the installation of said crosswalk.
But this is where it gets cute. When making her presentation to Council in Committee last month, Nicola Spurling argued that the rainbow crosswalk was not actually a symbol of support only for those identifying as LGBTQ, but was a “a universal symbol of acceptance…”
Rainbow Crosswalk: Pro-LGBTQ or pro-diversity?
The majority of Council bought the argument but, even as they did, seemed to realize that many citizens might not view it so broadly, so they called for the crosswalk to be accompanied by an explanatory sign, that would say something like “diversity lives here.”
Hmmmm. I sincerely doubt that Council would have a similar reaction to, let’s say, a Christian group that came to council asking for crosswalk depicting Christ and his apostles –even though they might argue with great fervor and compelling rhetoric that Christ is a universal symbol of the power of love and peace, and what the world needs now is, certainly, more love and peace.
Neither would Council support the environmental-action Blue Dot group asking for images of the blue earth to fill crosswalks, even if it might argue with great passion and reason that the earth's environment is endangered, and that everyone loves the earth and we must protect it.
In both cases, it is true that the groups are invoking universally accepted or supported themes, but they are also using very particular images associated with their particular group in an attempt to advance those themes. Council would rightly adhere to the logic of its long-standing no-proclamation policy, and reject the overtures on the grounds that they constitute de facto proclamations in support of a particular group.
And that is the reason I voted last night against the installation of the crosswalk. It was not because of any opposition to the high ideals of inclusivity, just as I do not oppose the flowering of love and peace in the world, or the protection of Earth from pollution.
Rather, it is because, in supporting this crosswalk, Council is actually singling out for support one particular cause among the many scores of worthy causes that exist in the world. And that is simply unfair, unequal and inequitable.
Having lost that vote, however, I did support a second motion to have staff present a report back to Council in Committee on the options for explanatory signage designed to try to persuade the populace of our fine city that the Pride Crosswalk isn’t really a Pride Crosswalk. I look forward to the discussion that will surely follow.

UPDATE: As Alice said, this whole thing is becoming curiouser and curiouser. On Oct. 18, Ms. Spurling complained that the crosswalk design brought forward by city staff was not the exact "Pride" design, but was one that merely depicted the colours of an ordinary rainbow. She said this constituted a "slap in the face" for the "queer community." It will be most interesting to see where all this leads. 

1 comment:

  1. Mr Terry O’Neil
    Councillor City of Coquitlam

    The basis of your argument seems to be that the only reason you did not support the Rainbow Crosswalk was because of the long standing City of Coquitlam non-proclamation policy that made it impossible for you to approve.

    After reading this 1 line policy (copy below) I think you have misinterpreted its reason for being in place, and your reason for voting against the Rainbow Crossing.

    The City of Coquitlam non-proclamation policy is in place to avoid delegations petitioning the city and council (prior to the official council meeting or in writing) to make official statements of support for any specific cause, event, person or celebration.

    It’s not designed so that council can avoid taking a position or vote on a key issue or topic presented before them in the council meeting.

    To be clear the Rainbow Crossing is not a verbal proclamation as defined in the definition of proclamation, but a visual proclamation of the support of Coquitlam to the LGBTQ2+ community.

    These visual proclamations are made every day in the city of Coquitlam with our seasonal decorations and more directly by changing the colour of the lights on the Lafarge Lake Fountain or the lights in the newly installed Tower of Lights prominently placed around the city.

    The good news is the decision to approve the colour of the lights is made by city staff and not council. This is not only practical, but based on the political challenges around the colour of a cross walk it seems to make good policy sense.

    Most of Coquitlam council understand the symbol of the Rainbow Crossing and what it stands for. This is not the first rainbow crossing to be install in the world or our region. The City of Vancouver, New Westminster and Victoria to name a few have taken up this symbol of support for the LGBTQ2+ community. The City of Port Moody just recently approved the installation of their own community Rainbow Crosswalk without any debate on how many colours or adding a plague to explain the rainbow.

    Mr O’Neil you either support the rainbow crosswalk as a symbol of the City of Coquitlam’s support for the LGBTQ2+ community, or you don’t. Either way clarity on your position of support or non-support is a lot better than finding a 1 line procedural policy to hide behind, or looking at creative ways to change this international symbol to meet your personal or political needs.

    Patrick McCarthy

    The specific Council policy regarding proclamations is found on page 49 (of 55) of the following document (which is a PDF of a report considered by Council at its meeting of September 21, 2009):


    Definition of proclamation for English Language Learners. : the act of saying something in a public, official, or definite way : the act of proclaiming something. : an official statement or announcement made by a person in power or by a government.