Skip to main content

Alberta town voting today on bylaw banning Pride crosswalks

A crosswalk in Westlock, Alta., that was painted in Pride colours in June 2023 in an event attended by hundreds of people. (Credit: George Blais/Westlock Town and Country Today) A crosswalk in Westlock, Alta., that was painted in Pride colours in June 2023 in an event attended by hundreds of people. (Credit: George Blais/Westlock Town and Country Today)

Westlock residents are voting Thursday on a bylaw that would prohibit rainbow crosswalks, a common symbol of support for the LGBTQ2S+ community, and restrict the town to flying only government flags.

All eligible voters in the town of 5,000 north of Edmonton have until 8 p.m. to vote at the community hall.

The question they face is: "Do you agree that: only federal, provincial and municipal flags may be flown on flagpoles on Town of Westlock municipal property; all crosswalks in the Town of Westlock must be the standard white striped pattern between two parallel white lines; and the existing rainbow coloured crosswalk in the Town of Westlock be removed." 

In the two weeks leading up to Thursday, new Mayor Jon Kramer published a series of videos on behalf of council encouraging residents to vote against the bylaw. He urged voters to consider the economic impact such a bylaw would have, potentially turning off investment and interest from young professionals, and stressed the permanence of the plebiscite. Because the vote originated from a petition, a second petition seeking to rescind the bylaw would be needed to undo it and only after a one-year cooling-off period. 

He also pointed to other inclusivity initiatives, from active modes of transportation, to a program that discounts access to recreation services for lower-income households, and the town's first fully inclusive playground. 

"Extending support and care to one group doesn't in any way diminish the others. It's about recognizing needs and finding simple and affordable ways to connect with them as a community," he said in the latest video, published Wednesday on social media. 

Westlock's first Pride crosswalk was painted in June during an event organized by the gay-straight alliance at R.F. Staples Secondary School, which was approved by town council in May. 

In September, a group demanding "neutrality" in public spaces delivered to council a petition with signatures from 10 per cent of residents. 

The matter became a community decision after town council, which was required by the Municipal Government Act to give it a first reading, chose not to proceed with a second or third reading. 

Of that decision, Deputy Mayor Murtaza Jamaly told CTV News Edmonton, "There was a consensus around the table that we didn't feel that this bylaw was representative of our community."

The results of the vote are expected to be released between 10 and 11 p.m. Thursday. 

"We're seeing this rise of global populism and far-right extremism that is afraid and wants to attack anybody who doesn't look like you, live how you live, or share the same kind of values that you believe in. That's un-Canadian," said Kristopher Wells, an associate professor and the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at Edmonton's MacEwan University. 

"That's why we need our allies and our friends to rise up and stand beside us and say this isn't who we are as Albertans." 

In January, an Ontario town effectively overturned a bylaw that banned Pride flags

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Craig Ellingson Top Stories

Stay Connected