When the rainbow crosswalk in Smithers, B.C., needed a re-fresh, Girl Guide members in the northern B.C. community came to the rescue. Armed with paint brushes and a kaleidoscope of colours, local Girl Guide volunteers set to work in painting the colours of inclusion on Smithers’ Main Street. Guiding member Christine Tessier shares their story.
Girl Guides first got involved in our community’s rainbow crosswalk in July 2017, when Smithers hosted SOAR (Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous), an international camp for Girl Guides. This camp is held every three years in different B.C. locations.
As head of service projects for the camp, and a local Smithereen, I started searching for various projects that campers could participate in. Some of the projects included trail cleanup, painting tables and chairs on the site, collecting items for the Community Services organization and weeding at the community garden. We also painted fish on drains throughout the town and this led to a request to refresh the rainbow sidewalk on Main Street.
The sidewalk was originally painted in 2016 to show the town’s support and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, but the town of Smithers was unable to find a contractor to redo the job so they asked me. Unfortunately, the weather would not co-operate and camp ended before we could get to the job. I still felt this would be a perfect fit for Girl Guides so appealed to local Guiders and we took it on.
It took three hours for us to complete. It was a first time for all of us, including town staff who provided the supplies. Halfway through, the mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, came to thank us for our work and our project ended up on the front page of the local paper.
While this project turned out to be great promotion for local Guiding, that wasn’t the only reason for doing it. I truly believe this was a simple but powerful way to show how inclusive we are and that we believe that all persons are valued.
Girl Guides makes it clear that we strive to provide a safe space for our members, which isn’t possible without acceptance and respect. The rainbow sidewalk has been a controversial topic among some in our small community of 5,000 – yet slowly but gradually, it has been accepted. I remember the first time it was painted in 2016. It was less than 24 hours before tire tracks appeared to mar the colours as people deliberately worked to deface it. Now locals praise our work as they walk by.
Guest post by Christine Tessier, a Girl Guide volunteer in Smithers, B.C.