It would be much more than just paint on the ground.
This message was shared by Neskonlith Band Kukpi7 (Chief) Irvin Wai and others about an Every Child Matters crosswalk proposed for the intersection of Shuswap Avenue and Chase Street in the Village of Chase.
At its Sept. 12 meeting, council, in a 2-2 vote, defeated a staff recommendation to proceed with installing the crosswalk. Mayor David Lepsoe and Coun. Jane Herman were in favour and Couns. Colin Connett and Fred Torbohm were opposed. Coun. Ron Harder wasn’t present for the meeting.
The cost of the installation was to be shared between the Village and the Adams Lake, Neskonlith and the Skwlāx te Secwepemcúl̓ecw bands.
Following the meeting, Lepsoe elected to bring the matter back to council for another vote, as is permitted under Section 131 of B.C.’s Community Charter.
Prior to the second vote, held at the Sept. 26 council meeting, the Village and council received a number of written responses critical of the decision. One came in the form of a statement from Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Lynn Kenoras-DuckChief, who called council’s decision unacceptable. She said for more than a year the three bands and the Village have been meeting with respect to implementing a Truth and Reconciliation project for Sept. 30th, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
“Mayor Lepsoe visited my office and despite the wildfire trauma, Adams Lake agreed to share cost with VOC (Village of Chase) for a $2,500 Every Child Matters crosswalk in Chase,” said Kenoras-DuckChief. “To our dismay, the VOC voted against the project citing costs and maintenance despite our willingness to share those costs.”
The Village also received several letters that were included the Sept. 26 council agenda, including one from Chase Evangelical Free Church pastor Tyler Harper, who commented on symbols being historic reminders and motivators for the future. “We call upon the Village of Chase to support the construction of symbols to remind us of our need for reconciliation with our neighbours as well as to encourage us to what our relationships can be in the future.”
Prior to the second vote on the crosswalk, council heard from guests including Adams Lake Band Councillor Shelley Witzky and Neskonlith Band Kukpi7 (Chief) Irvin Wai.
Wai called the proposed crosswalk a small thing with big implications.
“It’s to bring awareness for the people who don’t understand what happened to us, and it’s to also bring closure for us, to know that truth and reconciliation is really working,” said Wai.
Coun. Fred Torbohm said he voted as he did on Sept. 12 because he wanted to know if discussions were had regarding alternatives to a crosswalk, such as a mural.
“I fully support putting out that message in whatever way possible. If it’s a crosswalk I will support that. But are there any alternatives?” said Torbohm.
Coun. Connett, however, did not support the crosswalk.
“With a crosswalk you scrape it off every year and you’ve got to repaint it,” said Connett. “With a mural on the wall it will be there for everybody right in view all the time. And that’s what I will support. I’ll say it right now, I will not support a sidewalk.”
Wai said better communication was needed in advance of the Sept. 12 vote, but stressed council’s decision at that time was like a “slap in the face” for the three bands. As for the Every Child Matters crosswalk, Wai said “it’s meaningful for us.”
“It’s not just paint on the sidewalk,” said Wai. “These are children that have perished, these are women that are missing…
“If it’s a money issue, let us know, we’ll repaint it every year. It’s not a money thing for us. It’s bringing us closure to a travesty that we’re still facing, that we’re still dealing with every day. To me it’s not just paint on the street that gets scraped around. It means something to us, to us that have lost children, to us that have lost husbands, wives, aunties, cousins, that’s what it means to us.”
Witzky encouraged the crosswalk as well as banners and a mural. She suggested local youth could be involved in the crosswalk’s design, explaining $10,000 is available for joint projects.
Herman expressed regret for not having spoken up at the Sept. 12 meeting. She called the crosswalk a symbol of the four communities coming together, and a “necessary step for our village to acknowledge our path towards reconciliation – truth and reconciliation.
“Personally I believe even if we were responsible for the full cost, I would still be in favour of this project.”
On a motion to support the crosswalk, with each of the four partners contributing $625 towards the cost of installation and towards ongoing maintenance, council voted in favour, 4-1, with Connett opposed.
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