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Posted: May 28, 2018

Rainbow crosswalk opening celebrated

About 100 people this morning attended School District No. 5 (SD5) Southeast Kootenay’s unveiling of Cranbrook’s first rainbow crosswalk.

The crosswalk, in front of the SD5’s Industrial Road No. 1 office building, is a symbol of SD5’s support for diversity and commitment to inclusive communities that embrace every citizen, noted SD5 board chair Frank Lento.

The crosswalk, which was enthusiastically supported by the Board of Education, marks the second rainbow crosswalk painted in the district.

The district’s first rainbow crosswalk was initiated by a group of students and teachers at Fernie Secondary School. Following a presentation to Fernie city council in the spring of 2017, in which they requested permission to paint the crosswalk on the city’s property adjoining the school, the group received whole-hearted support from both Fernie council and the SD5 Board of Education. The crosswalk was painted that summer.

“These crosswalks are a natural extension of the work SD5 has been doing for over a decade to further our goal of providing all students (and staff) with the safety, respect and acceptance to which they’re entitled,” Lento said. “Like the fabled rainbow in the story of Noah, this crosswalk symbolizes our promise to our students.”

SD5 was one of the first school districts in B.C. to create a sexual orientation policy prohibiting any form of discrimination, intimidation or harassment against any person based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Originally approved by the board of the day in May 2006, the policy has been revised over the years to better reflect the board’s increased understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

Aq’am Nasuʔkin Joe Pierre Jr.

In July 2016 the BC Human Rights Code was amended to include gender identity and expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination. By September 2016 the Minister of Education had announced that all boards of education and independent school authorities in B.C. were required to reference sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in district and school codes of conduct by year’s end.

While many districts in B.C. were working on creating or revising their own SOGI policies following this announcement, the SD5 board was once again leading the way forward, having had revised their policy to reflect SOGI three and a half years earlier, in May 2013.

Today’s ribbon cutting was preceded by speeches by SD5 board members and staff, with board member Chris Johns serving as emcee, as well as a message from Kootenay Columbia MP Wayne Stetski. The City of Cranbrook, Cranbrook RCMP, members of Cranbrook Pride and a host of other dignitaries and guests were also on hand.

Aq’am Nasuʔkin (Chief) Joe Pierre Jr., in his inimitable style, recounted the story of the great race between Thunder’s sons and those of Fox and Coyote and how the rainbow came to mean so much to the Ktunaxa people.

The efforts of Fernie students and those at Mount Baker Secondary School were praised by SD5 board members as instrumental in the rainbow crosswalk being created.

AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society (ANKORS) Care Team director Gary Dalton (pictured right) reflected on how far Cranbrook has come in the last 20 years in terms of acceptance and awareness of the LGBTQ community.

“This is not an end; this is a beginning,” he said.

Lead image: SD5 School Board Trustee Chris Johns (Electoral Area C) and Board Chair Frank Lento are flanked by secondary school students from Fernie and Cranbrook during today’s ribbon cutting. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW images

– Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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