UPDATE: Members of Airdrie Pride Society repainted the rainbow pathway June 23.
Homophobic vandalism painted on Airdrie Pride Society's (APS) rainbow pathway at Nose Creek Regional Park has left members of the local LGBTQ2S+ community and its allies feeling disappointed.
“We were definitely taken aback with it all,” said APS President Kiersten Mohr. “It is also appreciating that while we have to validate it and stand up against this kind of hate in the community, we also want to get out a message to our community saying we know this doesn’t represent the city we live in, and this is a very small minority of people.”
The homophobic slurs were painted on the walkway sometime during the June 20-21 weekend, and Mohr posted APS' official statement about the incident on Facebook June 22.
"We are worried about anyone out there who is not out yet, and how this single act could encourage fear and uncertainty in the safety of being authentic and true in our city," the statement said. "I know, from my perspective, before I came out, seeing something like this in the news would have terrified me and reinforced every negative stereotype I had about small-town Alberta. I know I would have fled further into the closet.
"Our message to anyone nervous about coming out or being authentic in Airdrie is to trust that this hateful action does not represent our city. A year ago, we stood in this same park surrounded by thousands of people who showed love, acceptance and passion for a more inclusive Airdrie."
Following the discovery of the graffiti, Mohr said APS contacted the City of Airdrie, and the municipality sent crews from the Parks and Public works department to scratch out the slurs.
Mayor Peter Brown addressed the incident on his Facebook page.
"There is no place in Airdrie for hatred of any kind and it saddens all of us to see the graffiti that has recently popped up in our community," he said. "However, I don’t want to lose sight that the vast majority of people in Airdrie are kind, welcoming, diverse and inclusive. Focusing on only the few gives those people exactly what they want – it gives them a voice. Let’s make our positive voices celebrating everyone louder and drown out the few."
The timing of the incident was significant. Internationally and locally, June is recognized as Pride Month. Throughout the month, the LGBTQ2S+ community is spotlit and celebrated. In Airdrie, City council officially declared June Pride Month during a regular meeting May 19.
“While we certainly appreciate this isn’t representative of the city, [these attitudes] are certainly out there,” Mohr said. “Our job and goal as an organization is to make sure we wash this away and make sure people feel safe and comfortable in the city because it is a safe and supportive place to live.”
Mohr added APS intends to repaint the rainbow every year anyway, to keep the colours from fading, and will be doing so in the coming days.
“We went to get new paint at Sherwood Williams, and they were as upset as we were and gave us wonderful discounts on paint,” she said. “The love in the community is really strong and it comes through in times like this. While we don’t like seeing it happen, it certainly brings out how amazing the city actually is.”
Scott Strasser, hzlatk.com
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19