Spending her summers travelling around Ontario with her family, 11-year-old Guelph resident Mattea Somerville noticed her hometown was lacking one crucial bit of inclusion she had seen in other cities.
An LGBTQ2S+ rainbow crosswalk.
Seen as a visible signal of inclusion, Guelph is one of the few remaining major cities in the region that has yet to dedicate a rainbow crosswalk.
That didn’t sit well with Somerville, who has since launched a petition asking Mayor Cam Guthrie and the rest of city council to install the cities first LGBTQ2S+ rainbow crosswalk.
“It’s nice because it’s a permanent sign of support for the LGBTQ2S+ community,” said Somerville.
Launched on Sunday, Somerville has gained over 500 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
In her petition, Somerville said: “Having a rainbow crosswalk is very important to me because my loved ones are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and the rainbow crosswalk is a welcoming symbol of inclusion and diversity for LGBTQ2S+ people. The joy I feel when seeing a rainbow crosswalk when visiting other cities in Ontario is overwhelming and I would love to see Guelph take a positive step forward in the right direction by having one installed here as well.”
Somerville said she wanted to get as many signatures as possible and bring the petition forward to Guelph’s city council in the hopes they would acknowledge the petition and move to install a permanent LGBTQ2S+ rainbow crosswalk in Guelph.
When asked where she would like to see it, Somerville said the crosswalk should be painted in an area of Guelph that will be accessible and visible.
“Somewhere visible and accessible for everyone. Maybe near Paisley and Norfolk or Gordon and Waterloo for example,” said Somerville.
Jake Somerville, Mattea’s father, said the lack of visible support for diversity in Guelph is definitely an issue, and having the rainbow crosswalk is one of many steps the city can take toward providing a safer environment for marginalized communities in Guelph.
“We were talking about how it would be nice if it was done before pride month next year, for sure, given that it’s gone on for so many years and it’ll be 2022. So, it’ll be a nice year to hopefully have our first rainbow crosswalk in Guelph,” said Jake Somerville.
The petition caught the eye of Coun. Leanne Caron who tweeted out the petition saying “Hey Guelph, time for some colour on our streets. Show your support for Mattea's campaign to get Guelph's 1st Rainbow crosswalk (and 2nd, and 3rd, and more).”
Caron said to her knowledge there are no rainbow crosswalks within Guelph.
“I have not seen one anywhere, so that is, for a city as inclusive and proud as Guelph, it’s about time we had one,” said Caron.
The crosswalk, which would not require a slew of approvals or come with a hefty price tag, also has the added benefit that it can deter speeding as public art has been found to bring motorists' speeds down.
"This is really an inexpensive expression of a community identity," said Caron. "We're talking about some pylons and some cans of paint, and we get community volunteers to do the painting. This is such a win-win."
“I don’t think this takes a year to make a decision, and it doesn’t take a report, and a study and a consultant and an RFP, it just takes vision and some paintbrushes,” said Caron.
When asked if she would support a motion in council to get the crosswalk painted, Caron said she would bring it to council and would absolutely support it.
Mattea Somerville said she was ready with her paintbrush and is currently just waiting on approval from council to begin painting.