SPRINGDALE, NL — Springdale council recently voted down a request from the Indian River High Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) to paint a rainbow crosswalk near the school.
The request to put the crosswalk on the street between the school and the stadium was defeated in a vote by a 4-3 margin at the April 9 public meeting.
Springdale Mayor Dave Edison, the deciding vote, said members of council had a chance to review a letter from the student-led organization prior to the meeting. All of council was given a chance to voice their opinions, and the mayor said differing beliefs and ideas around the subject were presented.
“Some of it was about beliefs, but some of it was also to do with why highlight this?” Edison said.
The mayor said such an action would set a precedent, setting the course for future requests for special signage or signals around town.
“Does council use taxpayers’ dollars to tell people how they should believe or what they should believe in?” he said. “That was part of the discussion that was had too.”
From a personal standpoint, Edison said he does not discriminate against any part of the population, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, race, religion or any other factor.
“I am just worried that, while they are asking for this to show inclusion, I think it is actually going to create a division,” he said. “I have had people speak to me already about not wanting to see it there. I don’t want to create that (animosity) in town.”
Again, the mayor stressed he has no homophobic or related feelings.
“I honestly haven’t got a bone in my body against anyone who is heterosexual, gay or otherwise,” he said. “Whether they are born a certain way or it’s a choice, it is the same as your colour, the religion you choose, everybody has their own ideas.”
The mayor also said the letter was signed by 28 members of the student body, only slightly over 10 per cent of the Indian River High population — noting it is not necessarily indicative of a majority representation of the school community.
Nobody from Indian River High or the GSA group attended the council meeting.
The Nor’wester had discussions with Ruth Cameron, vice principal and teacher sponsor for the organization about the decision, and she declined to comment further at this time. Students were also not made available for comment. The GSA — an organization created to advance equality for sexual and gender minority students, while creating safe and caring inclusive spaces, and fostering healthy and respectful environments and relationships — did meet to discuss the decision.
Edison invited any member of the school to speak with council further. He said feedback from an Indian River High representative is that people don’t understand what the rainbow crosswalk symbolizes or what the intent of the organization is. The mayor said council is open to learning more.
“This is a democracy, and at no point would we ever turn them down from doing so,” he said.
Rainbow crosswalks have appeared in towns and cities throughout the province and country in recent years. The mayor says he is not concerned about any negative criticism.
“In my mind, personally, I accept everybody,” he said. “…Am I worried about the repercussions of this? No. People have their opinion. If they are not happy with our decision, let’s sit down and talk about it. It may change people’s minds.”
Last week, The Nor’wester also left a message for Coun. Brenda Dicks — who The Nor’wester learned voted in favour of approving the request. She did not return the message as of deadline.
*** Edited to change name of the GSA group 19/04/2018*****