More public input needed, council puts off rainbow crosswalk
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More public input needed, council puts off rainbow crosswalk

The prospect of a rainbow crosswalk in Elmira remains in limbo, as Woolwich council this week put off any decision on the matter.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan’s bid to have the township move forward with the project, originally proposed by the Waterloo-Wellington chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, was met with calls to proceed slowly by his colleagues meeting Monday night.

Merlihan’s notice of motion circulated last week asked for council to re-affirm its commitment to the crosswalk in support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. It also suggested the township adopt diversity, equity and inclusion training and other measures in response to the controversy that erupted when the matter was first discussed last month.

Coun. Murray Martin responded negatively to the rainbow crosswalk proposal at an August 22 meeting, making comments deemed homophobic and causing a backlash.

While Martin did not comment during this week’s discussion, other councillors opted to move slowly, referring the issue back to staff for further investigation.

Coun. Scott McMillan said he supported the spirit of Merlihan’s motion, but called for a staff-led process in consultation with the public. He argued the 2SLGBTQI+ community should have a say before the township took action on their behalf.

“We haven’t done the work to connect with impacted communities to allow them to guide this process,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Sandy Shantz.

“Many of us tend to paint any other group with a single brush, when what we need to realize is that we are all individuals, with all our wonderful differences,” she said, noting there is no uniform opinion about the project’s merits.

“We also tend to fear that by lifting up another person or group, we’re somehow diminishing our place. In reality, when we can lift someone, or a group that has been subjugated, for whatever reason, we lift us all up and create a better community for everyone. Recognizing marginalized groups does not negate the importance of anyone else, but simply recognizes that for too long we have been a society with many divisions.”

Coun. Fred Redekop, too, spoke in favour of moving slowly in order to cover all the bases, as did Coun. Larry Shantz.

The mayor advocated for “proceeding carefully,” noting a public forum may not be suitable for everyone wishing to express their opinions about the rainbow crosswalk project.

“This is about us keeping people safe, safe to say what they need to say. That might not be in a public process,” she said in calling for staff to look into the issue.

There was no timeline for the matter to return to council. The next meeting was to be held September 19, but it was put off in recognition that the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled for that day.

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