Suzin Schiff speaks to the large crowd at the Pride crosswalk last week who showed up in support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After four separate vandalism incidents, many Niagara-on-the-Lake residents now just seem to expect that the new rainbow crosswalk will continually be damaged.

Many commenters in public, in letters to the editor and on social media have suggested such vandalism is just a fact of life.

Suzin Schiff thinks that attitude is wrong and people should not accept repeated defacing of the crosswalk as a fact of life.

“That makes me more sad, almost more sad than seeing the vandalism itself,” said Schiff, who works in administration at the Shaw Festival.

She got in touch with the town to organize a group photo at the crosswalk in support of 2SLGBTQI+ community after vandals defaced the crosswalk for a third time on July 31.

“I called the town and I said, ‘I need to talk to someone about this. Do you know that it’s here? What can we do? How can we respond?’ ” she said in an interview.

“It’s not enough to see it and then clean it up,” she said. 

She wanted to show her support in-person, she said, and not just through social media or the newspaper — but to stand on the crosswalk where it happened. 

“We need to be physically present to feel our feet on the place where this transpired and to physically show people that we stand and support them and to show them that they should feel safe where they live,” she said.

When the crosswalk was first put in, she said “it was very meaningful” to her.

This topic has always been one that’s close to her heart since she has friends and family who are queer, she said, and she’s always been a “strong ally” to the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

The group photo was scheduled last Friday at 9 a.m., barely two days after the damage from the third vandalism was cleaned up.

However, people arrived to find the crosswalk defaced for a fourth time — this time with more hateful comments.

She said it’s “disheartening for queer people or allies of queer people” when this type of vandalism is so routine it is just expected. 

She wants to make sure her voice is heard — and believes everyone should be doing the same every time something like this happens instead of just accepting it.

There are plenty of people in the world who are against public expressions like rainbow crosswalks, she said, but the latest vandalism is more than just pushback. In her view, it was a hate crime. 

“This is a different level. The people who are doing it have to be stopped,” said Schiff. 

Given how many time’s the NOTL crosswalk has been intentionally damaged, it’s probably going to happen again, she acknowledged.

But she’s motivated to continue to stand up for what she believes is right and encourages everyone to contact the town every time it is damaged. 

“It’s not about reacting afterwards. It’s about preventing it from happening,” she said. 

She hopes by people showing up in person every time, it will eventually “tip the tables.”

“If you want to show your love and support, it has to be a physical action and not just typing or talking to a friend or sitting and thinking about it — it has to have some kind of action,” she said.

“We have to stand. We have to speak. We have to stand on it. We have to say no.”

By Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 09, 2023 at 15:29

This item reprinted with permission from   The Lake Report   Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
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