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Anti-2SLGBTQ acts a recurring issue for Langford and West Shore RCMP

From crosswalks to banners, vandalism of visual representations of 2SLGBTQ pride keeps happening

It was the hope of its creators that the painted rainbow crosswalk at Spencer Middle School on Goldstream Avenue in Langford would make all students and families there feel welcome and included.

“I was there when it was installed in February, and I cried at the beautiful words of the students expressing how important it was to them to have this symbol to support people being who they are,” said Langford councillor Mary Wagner.

The crosswalk was an initiative brought forward by the school’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI) Club. SOGI 123 in schools across Canada have been working to provide students and educators with inclusive tools and practices that support students of all sexual orientations and identities in the hope that they will reduce discrimination and bullying. The policies prioritize safety, common language use and inclusive learning.

And while these efforts may impact what goes on inside schools, what happens just outside of schools is another story.

Organizers of the September 20, 2023, 1 Million March 4 Children protestors accused schools across Canada of exposing young students, they said, to “radical gender ideology in classrooms.” At the time, their website stated they were protesting the "premature sexualization and potentially harmful indoctrination" of children, but that they aren't against LGBTQ2S+ people. That website has been taken down.

There is often a misinformed conflation between gender identity and sexual orientation among those who oppose early introduction of SOGI in schools and the public celebration of Pride.  

The 1 Million March 4 Children protest in Victoria in September was shut down within minutes after counter-protestors rushed the stage. 

Before and after the official unveiling of Spencer Middle School’s rainbow crosswalk banner on Feb. 29, 2024, it had been vandalized several times. It was first painted on Feb. 13 and vandalized twice within a day. It was tagged with graffiti twice within 48 hours on June 24 of this year and again on June 25, according to the West Shore RCMP.

On June 27, West Shore RCMP released surveillance images of two suspects spray painting graffiti on the crosswalk.

"The graffiti displayed profanity and is being investigated as mischief under the Criminal Code," said the local RCMP in their statement when they asked the public for help to identify the suspects. In their update on July 3, West Shore RCMP said it has identified both of the suspects in the Langford vandalism incidents and that they will continue their investigation. Police told CHEK that one of the suspects was arrested and released on conditions, while the other has not been located. 

“This behaviour is not welcome in Langford,” said Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA Ravi Parmar on social media. "This is disgusting and unacceptable.”

According to Statistics Canada reporting in 2022, the number of hate crimes in Canada targeting sexual orientation rose by 12% for the second consecutive year since 2020.

On Feb. 16, 2024, BC Prosecution Service announced revisions to the Hate Crimes policy acknowledging “the significant harm caused by hate crimes to victims, their communities, and society as a whole.”

Hate crimes are legally defined in Canada as criminal offences committed against people or property based on the victim’s race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability. The Criminal Code of Canada's definition of hate crimes encompasses a wide range of crimes, from assault and vandalism to hate speech.

Of 491 hate crimes targeting a sexual orientation recorded in 2022, nearly three quarters of them—74%—specifically targeted the gay and lesbian population in Canada.

Intolerance has a short fuse

Less than 24 hours after five Pride banners were hung on May 30 outside of Langford’s City Hall, they were spray painted red and had to be removed. The cost to replace the banners was $800, said Langford councillor Kimberley Guiry, who posted to social media that she was “incredibly saddened, but honestly more furious.”

Hate crimes, even when they are experienced indirectly, such as through the appearance of bigoted public graffiti in public spaces can have a profound impact on people’s mental health, sense of safety and sense of belonging. “These crimes send a message of rejection towards both the target of the crime and their community,” says Canada’s Department of Justice.  

The new I Am Langford campaign design created by Jeannie Chipps. Photo: City of Langford

The intolerance of some is not stopping the city’s broad support for diversity.

Langford is a member of the Victoria Pride Society. In a historic move, the city will participate, for the first time, in the Victoria Pride Parade on July 7. “I’m thrilled that Langford will be participating in the Pride Parade on Sunday, and I’ll be there dressed up and enthusiastically waving to what I know will be huge crowds,” said Wagner 

To commemorate the moment, Jeannie Chipps—daughter of Russ Chips, Chief of Sc’ianew First Nation (Beecher Bay)—was commissioned to design a Langford Pride flag along with salmon-themed Pride street banners that were hung along Goldstream Avenue.

“When making this design, I wanted to create a unity between both the 2SLGBTQIA+ and the Indigenous communities that would be seen as powerful for both groups and equally meaningful for people residing in both groups,” Chipps said.