Demonstrators want rainbow signs on street



James MacLennan/for metro ottawa


Jeremy Dias hangs a rainbow flag from a Bank Street Promenade sign yesterday afternoon. A group is angry that city plans for Bank Street’s redevelopment do not include signage that would identify a section of the strip as Ottawa’s Gay Village.


« It’s a gay village, and always will be a gay village, even if the City of Ottawa doesn’t identify it. »

Disappointed that Ottawa’s plan for Bank Street’s redevelopment doesn’t include signage to identify a section as a ‘rainbow’ village, a group representing gay people and their allies took matters into their own hands.

As the city unveiled its plans yesterday, members of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative erected rainbow flags and staged a demonstration on a section of Bank Street widely known as the Gay Village.

Although the area is known as a GLBTQ community, Jer’s Vision executive director Jeremy Dias said Ottawa has ignored residents’ requests to include rainbow displays on a stretch of Bank, despite an extensive public consultation completed between 2004 and 2006.

"Despite all of our work from all angles of this, the city has totally ignored our request," said Dias.

According to Dias, there are two dozen GLBTQ businesses on the stretch and 86 per cent of Bank Street BIA businesses support making the area a rainbow village. Dias said GLBTQ-identified youth come from as far as Stittsville to the area on weekends, for its safety and inclusion.

"They can hold their partner’s hand, go for a coffee or a movie, wear a pink T-shirt or a purple bracelet and not be judged," he said. "It’s a gay village, and always will be a gay village, even if the City of Ottawa doesn’t identify it."

"There’s a large GLBTQ population in the area and not allowing signs is denying them their right to celebrate the fact that they’re GLBTQ," said Rosemary Burke, a member of the Lisgar Collegiate Institute Gay-Straight Alliance.

Luke Foley, a senior project manager with Construction Service West under the City of Ottawa’s Public Works and Services, said he wouldn’t comment on the issue.

Through the Bank Street Rehabilitation Project, Ottawa is performing maintenance from Wellington Street to the Rideau Canal, Foley said.