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Westlock To Remove Town’s Pride Crosswalk after Tight Vote

Westlock, Alberta, has voted to remove its only rainbow crosswalk, sparking disappointment and debate among residents.

The decision follows a vote on a bylaw banning symbols supporting political, social, or religious movements on public property.

Disappointment and Tears

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Some residents expressed sadness and disappointment over the decision, with Shaylin Lussier, a member of R.F. Staples Secondary School’s gay-straight alliance, describing the vote as “devastating.”

Worked Hard for This

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The rainbow crosswalk, symbolizing support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, was a source of pride for many in the town, and Lussier said “We worked very hard to have this.”

Bylaw Approval

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The bylaw, passed by a narrow margin, prohibits crosswalks and flags supporting “political, social, or religious movements or commercial entities.”

Narrow Vote

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There were just over 1,300 voters, 663 of whom, or 50.9 percent, cast ballots in favor and 639 against.

The decision mandated the removal of the rainbow crosswalk and restricted future displays of similar symbols.

Impact of the Vote

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The vote signifies a shift in the town’s approach to public displays, limiting them to only federal, provincial, and municipal flags.

Additionally, crosswalks are mandated to adhere to a standard white-striped pattern.

Petition and Process

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The decision to enact the bylaw follows a petition from the Westlock Neutrality Team, advocating for neutral public displays.

Town staff received the petition and drafted the bylaw, leading to a public vote on the matter.

Debate Over Neutrality

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Supporters of the bylaw, including Stephanie Bakker of the Westlock Neutrality Team, who brought in the petition argue that government entities should remain neutral and refrain from endorsing specific groups or causes.

They emphasize the importance of treating all communities equally and avoiding favoritism.

Not Against LGBTQ

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Bakker told reporters that “Council has tried very hard to say that we were against the Pride community, but for us, it is not the group they chose to promote; it’s the fact that they’re promoting any group whatsoever,” emphasizing on the group’s key agenda – government neutrality.

She added that her group doesn’t take issue with residents promoting minority communities, but believes governments should remain neutral.

Resident Supporters

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Benita Pedersen, a former organizer with the grassroots group Take Back Alberta, was among the locals who backed Bakker.

She stated that public servants ought to provide fair and unbiased service to the people.

Communities or groups should not be placed above others, according to Pedersen.

Criticism and Opposition

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Critics of the bylaw raise concerns about stifling diversity and marginalizing minority groups.

They argue that symbols like the rainbow crosswalk serve as important expressions of support and solidarity for marginalized communities.

Council’s Role

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Westlock councilors, who previously supported the installation of the rainbow crosswalk, express disappointment over the vote’s outcome.

Despite the setback, they reaffirm their commitment to inclusivity and explore alternative ways to support marginalized groups.

Path Forward

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Mayor Kramer underscores the council’s unwavering commitment to inclusion despite the removal of the rainbow crosswalk. “

We know that the work of inclusion is not a straight line,” he said. “But … our commitment to inclusion is non negotiable. The future is inclusive and we know the path forward as a council.”

Implementation of the Bylaw

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With the bylaw set to take effect within 30 days, town officials prepare for the removal of the rainbow crosswalk and the enforcement of new regulations on public displays.

The community braces for the changes while grappling with the implications of the divisive decision.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!