22.5 C
Niagara Falls
Saturday, June 22, 2024
Editorial: Rainbow crosswalk is just a first step
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

We’ve come so far, but still have so far to go.

There was a time not so long ago – in the lifetimes of many of those in our community – when the colour of one’s skin determined where you were welcome in society.

People of colour and other minorities might tell you that while much has changed for the better, there are still many incidents and instances where one is judged based on skin tone, native language, cultural heritage, sexual orientation and other “differences” from what some claim to be “normal.”

In too many corners of society, there is a barely disguised dislike, and often hatred, for those who are “different” – whatever that really means. Acceptance? Tolerance? Not a chance.

It’s endemic in parts of the United States, especially in what passes for opportunistic political discourse, but Canada has more than its share of these same attitudes liberally ingrained across the country. We can smugly think otherwise, but we’d only be lying to ourselves.

The long, fractured debate and controversy in Niagara-on-the-Lake over slapping some expensive rainbow paint on asphalt to signal acceptance and tolerance ended a year ago when council committed to installing a multi-coloured crosswalk and some park benches.

The town chose to celebrate all people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+, Black and Indigenous communities.

That quietly happened Monday night, without notice or note. It was a missed PR opportunity for the Town of NOTL and an oddly understated way to roll out what should have been an occasion for celebration. But it got done.

It took only a few hours for one of the denizens of the social media world to label the crosswalk “sickening” on the town’s Facebook page, but nowadays that just seems like par for the course. Sadly, not unexpected.

Whether it’s restricting what books are widely available, outright racist, homophobic and other acts, or thundering against the “ideological” tyranny of raising a rainbow flag, one doesn’t need to look far to realize we have a long way to go still.

Unfortunately, like so many wars and battles over the centuries, much of this hatred comes from God-fearing Christians who confuse their own beliefs with what most of the free world sees as basic human rights.

Two incidents in recent days give us pause: the Catholic school board in York Region voted on Monday night not to fly the rainbow flag outside its headquarters in Aurora, despite a committee recommending it do so. The board only allows the Canadian flag to be flown on school property, a bit of a backhanded way to ensure exclusion.

And closer to home, Natalia Benoit, a Catholic school trustee representing Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, is among a small minority pushing to reverse a board policy allowing the rainbow flag to fly at schools.

Her odious and wrongheaded rhetoric in fighting against what she seems to view as a war against an ideological movement is a lousy example for the community and the children she represents.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “tolerance” as “being willing to accept somebody/something, especially opinions or behaviour that you may not agree with, or people who are not like you.”

It defines “acceptance” as “the act of agreeing with something and approving of it,” even when it’s “an unpleasant or difficult situation.”

Tolerance and acceptance are just the start. And reluctance is not part of the equation.

It’s 2023 and time for these thinly veiled racist, homophobic and exclusionary attitudes to be set aside.

Yes, we’ve come so far, but we still have many rivers to cross.

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