Residents and visitors to the town will again notice a rainbow sidewalk on Railway Avenue following a council decision to continue a project started by the previous council as a way to express support for the Pride movement.

Chris Kyte, who founded the Renfrew Pride movement in June 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic, appeared before council May 9 to update the new council on its current and future plans to assist the town in terms of increasing inclusion and tolerance of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

Among the activities planned are the painting of three large flags on the sidewalk along Railway Avenue. She said the project was not completed before the 2022 municipal election was held. The election resulted in five new members of council along with the return of Mayor Tom Sydney and Reeve Peter Emon.

The cost of the project is approximately $15,000 and the council of the day agreed to assume half the cost at $7,500. 

“There will be a progressive Pride flag, a flag to include intersex individuals and a Pride flag dedicated to Indigenous/Queer folks, particularly Two-Spirited individuals, to recognize Golden Lake and the Algonquins,” Ms. Kyte explained. “The request was approved (by the previous council), but was not completed before the election.”

She commended the previous council for its decision to recognize members of the local community who in the past were marginalized and at times faced discrimination. She said financial commitments have been secured by various partners and organizations and that in itself shows the potential to increase acceptance for those who at times felt isolated not only in Renfrew, but throughout many parts of Renfrew County.

“We’ve secured just over $4,000 in sponsorship commitments, with $2,600 of that already in our account,” she said. “There are some local businesses who want to sponsor as well, but they have requested a breakdown for that number so I’m just waiting on that information.”

She said the fact a small rural community like Renfrew is taking progressive steps is in itself a major step forward and the previous town’s commitment is an example of how society is slowly accepting members of the 2SLGBT+ community into mainstream society.

“There are numerous rainbow crosswalks and pathways in the country. This will be one of, if not the first rainbow sidewalk in Canada and that’s pretty amazing for our little town,” she said.

Despite the apparent progressive acceptance of the gay community, she admits there is still resistance for individuals who identify themselves as either gay, transsexual or other forms of sexuality not considered as part of mainstream society. She said now is the time for council to take the lead and let it be known that hate is not tolerated in Renfrew, or anywhere else. 

 “With the backlash we’re seeing on social media, this is a crucial moment for our community leaders to take a stand,” she said. “While I understand the desire to consult the public prior to making certain decisions on their behalf, this is where we need you to lead and set the example and standard for this community.”

Reeve Peter Emon, who chaired the meeting for Mayor Sydney who was unable to attend, stated he continues to support the project that was presented to him as a member of the previous council. 

“I think it’s necessary for us to present as a diverse and welcome community,” he said. “I think ultimately, council and the community share the same goal that our community is safe, it is welcome, and people feel supported and can get along as well as enjoy a good quality of life. This is one more step toward that.”

Councillor Andrew Dick, a member of a working group that was established to work with Ms. Kyte’s organization, said the group is moving forward towards bringing a resolution to council to approve the request.

He said along with fellow members Mayor Sydney, Councillor Jason Legris and CAO Robert Tremblay, they have met with Ms. Kyte and others towards a final project cost and design and is confident council will approve the project. 

By Bruce McIntye, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 19, 2023 at 11:51

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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