Gibsons has added orange highlighted crosswalks at Gower Point and Winn Roads as part of its reconciliation efforts with First Nations. The updates were done during the week of Aug. 16.
An Aug. 18 press release from the town said the painted crosswalks “are a way to recognize and honour the Indigenous children who were removed from their families and forced to attend residential school.”
“Like many other Canadian communities, the Town of Gibsons flew its flag at half-mast for 215 hours following the horrific discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” said Dave Newman, director of infrastructure services. “The orange crosswalks are meant to be a more permanent expression of the sorrow we feel and the healing work that still needs to be done.”
The town is within the traditional territory of the Squamish peoples and Gibsons staff consulted the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation) regarding its crosswalk initiative.
The town will install a temporary sign about the project and the two groups have agreed to develop permanent signage explaining the meaning of the crosswalks.
“Ideally, this sign will be unveiled on or around Sept. 30,” town spokesperson Elizabeth Quayle wrote in an email.
Since 2013, Sept. 30 has been nationally recognized annually as Orange Shirt Day. In June of this year, Ottawa declared Sept. 30 a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The colour orange has come to represent the painful legacy of Canada’s residential schools, based on the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. Webstad publicly shared her experience of having her orange shirt taken from her by the authorities upon her arrival at residential school.
Gibsons also has crosswalks with splashes of colour at the intersection of School and Gower Point Road. In 2019, the town added rainbow-themed crossings at that location to demonstrate the community’s active support and acceptance of LGBTQ people.