By Steve Hubrecht
The District of Invermere is talking about possibly creating a respectful behaviour policy or bylaw.
The concept has been discussed by district staff and Columbia Valley Pride, the local nonprofit group that strives to enhance the lives of 2SLGBTQiA community members in the Columbia Valley.
On November 14 the idea was presented for the first time to Invermere council during its regular meeting. Columbia Valley Pride sent a letter requesting council’s support in the initiative.
Invermere corporate officer Kindry Luyendyk explained that dialogue with the district, Columbia Valley Pride, the Summit Youth Hub and the Columbia Valley RCMP goes back a few months, and was triggered by an incident this past May.
The letter from Columbia Valley Pride, sent by Pride chair Gemma Beierback, also referenced the incident in which a person stood outside the Summit Youth Hub on May 31 “with a sign reading: ‘Hey Kids, Trannies = terrorists/satanists’.” The letter also referenced multiple occurrences of vandalism of the rainbow crosswalk on 13th Avenue, as well as threats to Pride committee members through social media.
“These aggressions may seem insignificant, minor inconveniences, but to members of the 2SLGBTQiA community they are threatening. There is a genuine concern for personal safety,” read the letter.
There have been two meetings so far (one with district staff and Pride, the second with district staff, Pride, the RCMP and Summit Youth Hub), and another is scheduled.
The meetings have included discussions about the incidences of intolerance outlined above but, as Columbia Valley Pride wrote in the letter,“we have also started to think more broadly about solutions for the future, about creating a community that is truly safe and inclusive.”
To that end, Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young raised the concept of a respectful behaviour policy or bylaw for public spaces in Invermere.
“While we have only been introduced to this at the conceptual level it sounds promising, and we would like to continue to explore this opportunity,” read the letter.
Young explained to the Pioneer that the idea of a respectful behaviour policy or bylaw is still preliminary.
“We’re doing research on it,” said Young, adding district staff have found examples of such policies in other B.C. communities. “But the possible bylaw we may be looking at goes further than their respectful behaviour policies, so we need to fine tune it before bringing it before council . . . there will be further conversations.”
Invermere councillor Gerry Taft alluded to online comments he came across around the time that the rainbow crosswalks downtown and on 13th Avenue were being painted.
“They were odd — they were comments to the effect of ‘I’m not opposed to rainbow crosswalks, but I am opposed to tax dollars going to rainbow crosswalks’,” said Taft. “That’s a coded message. Especially when they (the commenters) don’t actually live in or pay taxes in Invermere.”
Taft emphasized that he fully supports implementing a respectful places policy or bylaw, but was unsure it would have the desired effect.
“Unfortunately you can’t legislate respect,” he said. “It may be more important to put dollars toward actions, such as creating more rainbow crosswalks.”