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Saturday, December 9, 2023
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Orange crosswalks for remembrance

Orange crosswalks for remembrance
With a group of about five volunteers, it did not take long to re-paint the crosswalks near the First Nation's University, turning them orange. Photo Susan McNeil.

Drivers in downtown Prince Albert will notice something different when they get to the corner of Central Ave. and 13th Street; the crosswalks have orange paint where it used to be white.

The change is part of an effort by the First Nations University of Canada Student Association to increase awareness and the discussion around residential schools in advance of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

“It was important to get that visual presentation, so that people know that our school is here and the work we do in the community,” said Krysta Hatfield, president of the association for the Northern Campus.

She along with a group of volunteers took some time the afternoon of Sept. 27 to apply the orange paint, following a blessing from an elder and a smudge ceremony.

The number of crosswalks that were painted was less than she had hoped for, however.

When setting out to amplify the conversation around residential schools and the need for remembrance, Hatfield was surprised by the red tape she encountered at City Hall.

She first approached the City in August to get permission to have the crosswalks painted, and felt the process was both cumbersome and unwelcoming.

Their initial idea was to springboard off the concept the Pride movement does but to use an Every Child Matters stencil instead.

“We would love to do that for Every Child Matters. We want to paint the crosswalks orange, how do we do that, what paint? Do we need a permit? Please let us know,” she explained.

The initial response was unhelpful, she said. The department asked for details about where and what type of paint they planned to use and that was it.

“So we went to the community and did some research to figure out how do you do this? We were on our own,” Hatfield said.

After they got the information they needed, they asked to be able to paint the intersections at 14th and Central and 13th and Central. They also wanted to paint a crosswalk in front of a school or in front of City Hall.

They were only given permission to paint the white lines orange and not fill in the gap as the Pride flags are done.

Hatfield was surprised at the lack of direction provided by department and instead approached a councilor, who helped her get on the agenda as a delegation on the Sept. 27 regular council meeting.

Even that process was not as simple as she thought it would be but Hatfield spoke to council about her concerns, primarily around the process. She suggested that it would be good to make the process clearer by having links on the city website.

“I realize there is not time for me to paint anywhere else in the city and that is a great dis-service,” she said. “The point that I’m speaking to here today is I would like to create a renewed relationship with the City of Prince Albert and council.”

She asked for help to create an elders council so that future conversations could include the University along with other organizations.

“I would like to carry on the conversation after this meeting so that we can have your guidance to be stronger leaders and create a relationship together,” said Hatfield.

Council said normally such requests are made in May—as the request to paint for Pride was done—and that using the white colour is done for consistency across Canada to improve safety

“We’ve gone to a new style paint, it’s a rubber paint and I don’t want to damage those crosswalks,” said Mayor Greg Dionne.

Councillor Dawn Kilmer said she has gone through the process herself before she was on council.

“I will admit that part of what drew me to council was working on communication and process,” she said.

“We ran into exactly the same thing. Short timing,” she said. “We then had to wait a year. We learned and worked with the City. Now it happens seamlessly.”

A motion to have staff work with the organization for future requests was seconded by Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp, allowing and welcoming the student association to paint the cross walk at 11th Street and Central Avenue for Orange Shirt Day in a form acceptable to the Public Works Department.

The motion passed, with only Dionne and Coun. Don Cody opposed.