By Steve Hubrecht

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Pride Month will pack a bigger punch this year, thanks to the efforts of Columbia Valley Pride (CV Pride).

The nonprofit group has been growing ever since it was founded in 2018, and will be holding its sixth annual Pride Festival this June. This year CV Pride is hoping to also do a Pride banner project, redo the painted rainbow crosswalk at J.A. Laird Elementary School, add another painted rainbow crosswalk somewhere downtown (or in foot-traffic-only location), and have a Pride flag flown at a public location for the month of June.

Next year, CV Pride hopes to install two permanent rainbow crosswalks in Invermere.

CV Pride works to empower the local 2LGBTQiA+ community in the Columbia Valley. 

Group members Logan and Nadine Hale presented CV Pride’s plans for an expanded Pride Month during Invermere’s council meeting on Tuesday, April 25.

“Representation is important,” Logan said. “Pride flags can mean different things in different places. But if it’s in a small town, usually it’s something people had to work to get up. That signifies that there’s a group of people committed to promoting inclusivity . . . anybody coming into the town, even if they aren’t queer, will understand that this is a place where it is less acceptable to be homophobic.”

Logan noted that despite increasing acceptance of 2LGBTQiA+ people in many parts of the world, in other parts, including some areas of the U.S., acceptance is not increasing and in many cases rights are being curtailed. 

Indeed for some people it almost seems “trendy to be homophobic”, said Logan, adding this only underscores the importance of Pride festivals everywhere, including here in the Columbia Valley.

In rural and remote communities such as Invermere, no matter how supportive the general population is, 2LGBTQiA+ people can often feel isolated, he explained, adding that, for instance, “if you are a student, you are probably the only one (2LGBTQiA+ person) in your class. It can be lonely. Getting together (with other 2LGBTQiA+ people at Pride events) creates a sense of belonging. It helps foster a community spirit.”

For the banner project, Nadine asked council to consider allowing four Pride banners to be hung along the east side of Pothole Park in June. Pothole Park will be the site of the Pride Festival on June 17. CV Pride is willing to pay for the banners and has been in touch with the district’s banner contractor Artopia to come up with three potential Columbia Valley Pride banner designs.

CV Pride hopes to expand the banner project next year by collaborating with schools and having local artists design more banners.

For the painted rainbow sidewalks, CV Pride hopes to see them painted in May.  

Painting the crosswalks in the spring lengthens the life of the crosswalks (which fade with time and the wear and tear of vehicles) and makes them highly visible during Pride Month (June) and the busy summer tourist season, noted Nadine, adding that CV Pride is willing to cover the cost of paint, up to $700.

The location of the current, faded rainbow crosswalk by J.A. Laird Elementary School is great in terms of visibility for students (it’s also very close not only to Laird but also to David Thompson Secondary School and Eileen Madson Primary School), but that intersection is one of the busiest in Invermere, explained Nadine.

“That’s one of the reasons we see a lot of wear on it,” she said. “Hopefully a more central location would not see the same wear and also perhaps wouldn’t experience the attempts at vandalizing that the one by Laird has seen. There’s also a value, in terms of visibility, in having it in the downtown core.”

In terms of a foot-traffic-only location, which would substantially reduce wear and tear on the rainbow crosswalks, Nadine suggested that somewhere on one of the paved footpaths by Kinsmen Beach would be a good location.

The permanent rainbow crosswalks CV Pride would like to install next year are much more expensive than normally painted ones (each of the permanent crosswalks could cost up to $12,000) and the group asked the district for permission to apply for grants under the umbrella of the district’s charitable status.

CV Pride said it is happy to gift the district a Pride flag and asked the district to fly it for the month of June. Invermere Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Young said the district is looking at adding more flagpoles in the near future, but is unable to add any this year. He suggested swapping out the Every Child Matters flag by the cenotaph with a Pride flag. 

Councillor Kayja Becker immediately voiced hesitation on that particular idea, pointing out that June is also National Indigenous History Month.

Young replied that he wasn’t thinking for the whole month, but rather that it may be worth checking with Shuswap Band Chief Barbara Cote about changing the flag just for one day on June 17. “It’s a stop gap, but it might be helpful for the day,” he said.

Nadine and Logan both voiced unease at having the Every Child Matters flag taken down, even for the day. Logan told the Pioneer after the meeting that “I am not in support of taking down another minority’s flag in order to put up my minority’s flag. I’d rather just have the crosswalk and banners, or have our flag on a different pole.”

Councillors at the meeting repeatedly voiced their support for CV Pride’s plans and gave direction to district staff to, as Invermere Mayor Al Miller put it, “make it happen.”

“I was really pleased with how accepting of our ideas they were,” Logan told the Pioneer after the meeting. “It’s great to have our group expanding and to have more visibility. This is how we can create community . . . being queer you often have to find your community. Having support systems in place is helpful in that regard.”

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