THUNDER BAY — A pair of local organizations have asked the City of Thunder Bay to deepen its commitment to the LGBT+ community, seeking to expand the visibility symbols of inclusion and run awareness training for city council, among other steps.
Advocates with the Thunder Pride Association and the Rainbow Collective of Thunder Bay presented to city council on Monday, presenting six asks they said would help respond to what they called an atmosphere of mounting hate and attacks.
“Right now it’s the trans and non-binary people who are experiencing these rising levels of hate,” said Rainbow Collective vice-president of inclusion Jessy Bogacki. “Not that this hate never existed … but we’re seeing this shift that folks are getting louder and more violent in our local community.”
Leaders with the two groups cited a Statistics Canada hate crimes report released earlier this year, which showed a 64-per-cent rise in hate crimes targeting sexual orientation in 2021.
Shootings at LGBT+ nightclubs and growing political attacks on LGBT+ rights and inclusion in the United States have created a chill of fear for the community across the continent, they said.
Rainbow Collective president Jason Veltri told council that dynamic is increasingly at play north of the border, as well, pointing to the York Catholic District School Board’s recent vote not to fly the Pride flag this June.
Closer to home, the groups referenced a recent protest of a local gym over its policy allowing transgender clients to use the change room they feel most comfortable in as an example of LGBT+ hate in the Thunder Bay community.
In response, they asked council to:
- Participate in gender and sexual diversity training
- Show up to Pride month events
- Enshrine the city’s flying of the Pride flag during the month of June in policy
- Fly Pride flags or display decals at all city-owned facilities
- Allow the groups to install additional coloured crosswalks honouring the LGBT+ community
Those requests were referred to administration for review in a unanimous vote, with a report due back by Dec. 18.
Referencing controversy over the installation of the city’s first pride-themed crosswalks, Veltri said his group envisions shouldering the cost itself.
“We’re asking for a new crosswalk to be installed, but this time by us, with our money, and not tax-payer money. We learned many lessons from 2019 and 2020 of what not to do, so we’re going to own that responsibility now.”
Coun. Kasey Etreni called that a “fantastic idea” but asked if there could be more effective ways to demonstrate support.
“I appreciate you putting together the funds to be able to do the paint on the crosswalk, but we’ve also seen some wonderful art on our buildings and in our community,” she said.
“The crosswalk, although it’s a fantastic idea, it does need to be repainted on an annual basis because of our weather. It would be really nice if the group would get something that would be a bit more permanent, and also visible 365 days a year.”
Veltri responded the group would hope to support both approaches.
Scotia Kauppi, Thunder Pride chair, said her group has considered applying for funding for rainbow benches to be placed in city parks.