Merritt council rejects students’ rainbow crosswalk. Vancouver lawyers offer their lots instead

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A parking lot could end up a paradise for a group of LGBTQ students and allies in Merritt, after city council rejected their proposal for a rainbow crosswalk.

Students at Merritt Secondary School had planned the crosswalk for the intersection of Chapman Street and Coldwater Avenue, and would have installed it at no cost to the city.


​Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday against the proposal.

The crosswalk was rejected, in part, because it could “open kind of a Pandora’s box” for any group that wanted a special crosswalk of their own, said Mayor Neil Menard.

Councillors had also expressed concern about the coloured paint wearing out and requiring extra maintenance.

That’s when Vancouver lawyers Kyla Lee and Paul Doroshenko stepped in.

Lee and Doroshenko — who own adjacent parking lots in Merritt — saw an article about the rejected crosswalk online, and took to social media to offer their properties to the students.

“I thought, well that’s just wrong and I need to do something about this. So I tweeted that I would offer up my parking lot to be painted rainbow,” Lee told CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show on Friday.
Lee said she saw first hand the lack of inclusivity offered to LGBTQ students during her own high school years.
She added that offering support to kids in high school is particularly important, since it’s a time when they are developing and struggling with issues around sexuality — a time when they are also most at risk of depression and suicide.

​​A parking lot could end up a paradise for a group of LGBTQ students and allies in Merritt, after city council rejected their proposal for a rainbow crosswalk.

Students at Merritt Secondary School had planned the crosswalk for the intersection of Chapman Street and Coldwater Avenue, and would have installed it at no cost to the city.

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“I was actually very shocked at some of the comments that Merritt city council members were quoted as making about ‘not condoning the lifestyle,’ or understanding it. Being gay or lesbian or transgender or queer or questioning or whatever is not a lifestyle,” Lee said.

She was referring to comments by Merritt Coun. Linda Brown, who actually ended up as one of the three votes in favour of the crosswalk.

‘This is certainly not my lifestyle, nor do I propose to understand it or condone it,” Brown said.

“But I am prepared to accept the fact that kids of the school think that this will be a way to show some type of inclusion.”

Nicola-Similkameen School Board chair Gord Comeau called the parking lot offer extremely generous, but said he’s hoping students won’t have to take it.

He said the district proposes to use a high-durability thermoplastic paint that should allay councillors’ wear and tear concerns, and that he hopes the media interest will bring them back to the table.

“We’re hoping that people will reconsider, have another look, and we can revisit it,” Comeau said. “I’m hoping that maybe they’ll give us a call and we can have some dialogue.”

But he said even if the board doesn’t back down, the district owns several pieces of property where a rainbow installation of some kind aimed at promoting inclusivity could be painted.

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