A rainbow crosswalk now leads into the main doors of School District 5 offices in Cranbrook, as offiicals unveiled the colourful tribute to student diversity and inclusion on Monday morning.
The rainbow crosswalk is the first one in Cranbrook, but the second one within SD5 jurisdiction as a rainbow crosswalk was painted last year at Fernie Secondary School.
Cranbrook’s crosswalk was celebrated with a ceremony that included SD5 staff, city councillors, Joe Pierre Jr. with the Ktunaxa Nation Council and representatives from many local schools.
“For us, to make this step, I think it’s really important to honour the whole inclusive apporach that education takes in this province,” said SD5 trustee Chris Johns.
SD5 was one of the first districts to approve a sexual orientation policy prohibiting discrimination, intimidation or harrasement of any person based on sexual orientation or gender identity in 2006. Two years ago, the Ministry of Education announced all school boards were required to reference sexual orientation and gender identity policies in district codes of conducts.
Jason Tichauer, the Director of Student Learning and Aboriginal Education, spoke on behalf of the district, noting that it’s important to be more than just tolerant and to embrace and celebrate student diversity.
“I do not think this crosswalk is fully whole with just a belief of tolerance,” Tichauer said. “To be tolerant just means that you understand others’ diversity. To move beyond tolerant is to move to a place where you embrace that diversity and use that diversity to learn for all. I think it sells crosswalks short to say we are just tolerant of others and does not allow us to get to a place where others are embraced and celebrated regardless of diversity.”
Max Rutherford, a Grade 12 student at Mount Baker Secondary School, spoke on behalf of his peers, and added that there is an effort underway to gain approval for painting the crosswalk between the high school and Safeway.
“The installation of rainbow crosswalks in our country, our province, our school district – it means a lot to a lot of people, and not just the students, but adults too, who didn’t have the chance to have this when they were students,” Rutherford said. “They’re good, they’re fun, it’s a great way to join communities together. It’s a good show of support and it’s something we’re really grateful to have.”
Nasuʔkin (Chief) Joe Pierre Jr. with the ʔaq’am community, recounted a moving Ktunaxa legend that illustrated the significance and strength of the rainbow to Ktunaxa culture.
“We Ktunaxa people consider the spirit and the strength of the rainbow to be our greatest strength, our greatest spirit,” said Pierre. “We call upon the strength and the spirit of the rainbow in great times of need. And so I’m very pleased today that the School District has chosen to take this step, to show solidarity with those people around the world who have chosen the symbol of the rainbow for their strength.”
Gary Dalton, who represented ANKORS (AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society) and Cranbrook Pride, said that the rainbow crosswalk serves as a visual product of celebrating diversity.
“This is not an end result. This is not a beginning,” Dalton said. “This is a promise, and all of you who wear that rainbow flag participate in that promise and it is only the direction that we take that is really important and it’s all about youth.”
“…Diversity, inclusion, support, hope and future – that’s what the rainbow means to all of us.”