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Chase council vote against ‘Every Child Matters’ crosswalk called ‘unacceptable’

Cost of crosswalk installation was to be shared with 3 Secwépemc bands
Children walk across the Every Child Matters crosswalk unveiled in Keremeos on July 17, 2023. (Brennan Phillips Keremeos Review)

Village of Chase Mayor David Lepsoe says council will be revisiting a decision made against a proposed Truth and Reconcilliation project in advance of September 30th.

At its Sept. 12 meeting, with a 2-2 vote council defeated a recommendation by staff that the Village install an Every Child Matters crosswalk, similar in design to one in Kamloops, at the intersection of Shuswap Avenue and Chase Street. Lepsoe and Coun. Jane Herman were in favour and Couns. Colin Connett and Fred Torbohm were opposed. Coun. Ron Harder wasn’t present for the Sept. 12 meeting.

The cost of the installation was to be shared between the Village and the Adams Lake, Neskonlith and the Skwlāx te Secwepemcúl̓ecw bands.

According to minutes from the Sept. 12 meeting, concerns were raised around the cost to the Village for ongoing maintenance. It was suggested other options, such banners or a mural, be looked at that wouldn’t be subject to vandalism and would cost less to maintain. Also recorded were comments that the majority of taxpayers do not want a crosswalk, and that the small cost of the crosswalk would bolster the Village’s relationship with the three bands.

In a Sept. 21 statement, Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Lynn Kenoras-DuckChief called council’s decision unacceptable. She said for more than a year the three bands and the Village have been meeting with respect to implementing a Truth and Reconciliation project, explained Kenoras-DuckChief. Those discussions picked up again in June and the communities worked collaboratively on something for Sept. 30th, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – an Every Child Matters project.

“Mayor Lepsoe visited my office and despite the wildfire trauma, Adams Lake agreed to share cost with VOC (Village of Chase) for a $2,500 Every Child Matters crosswalk in Chase,” said Kenoras-DuckChief. “To our dismay, the VOC voted against the project citing costs and maintenance despite our willingness to share those costs.”

Kenoras-DuckChief noted “while good fiscal management is a key responsibility, so is committing to the development of a meaningful relationship in this new era of reconciliation with the Bands of the Secwépemc Nation,” adding the actual cost of creating the crosswalk would be a “mere $1,250,” and that there is federal funding available to support such projects up to a maximum of $10,000 per project. She said what’s particularly upsetting about council’s decision is the message it sends to children, youth and intergenerational and Residential school survivors.

“All the children know and understand the horror of the genocide and racism – it is recognized and the truth is taught in our schools and communities,” said Kenoras-DuckChief. “The crosswalk would have been something to be proud of and to allow our children to continue to learn and talk about this important issue.”

Lepsoe said he liked and agreed with Kenoras-DuckChief’s statement, and that the matter is being brought back to the Sept. 26 council meeting where it will be voted on by a full council. Under Section 131 of B.C.s Community Charter, “the mayor may require the council to reconsider and vote again on a matter that was the subject of a vote.”

“The other councillors are a little bit new and I’m not sure if they realized the ramifications, the overall ramifications of something like this,” said Lepsoe. “It’s such a huge issue in my mind. I just wanted to get another look at it and hopefully we can make it work.”

Read more: PHOTOS: Every Child Matters crosswalk unveiled in Keremeos

Read more:Every Child Matters crosswalk to be unveiled in Keremeos

The mayor said the Village has been meeting on roughly a monthly basis with the three bands and that the crosswalk was something everyone involved wanted to see happen.

“It was brought up at a previous (council) meeting for staff to investigate costs and it was passed, and I think that was a 4-1 vote for staff to research, so I didn’t really see much of an issue with it came back at $2,500,” said Lepsoe. “So I went over to see the chief at Adams Lake and both of us thought it would be a great event. When I came back to our council meeting, I wasn’t really expecting any push-back. So now this is where we’re at.”

Given the timing, Lepsoe didn’t think the crosswalk, if supported by council, could be installed before Sept. 30th. But he has other ideas on how to mark the day through further collaboration.

“If we pass this and we agree on a location, we could maybe do an event if the elders wish to,” said Lepsoe. “We wouldn’t have the time to put the crosswalk in most likely on the 3oth, but we could do a blessing on the site, on the proposed site, which would be kind of cool. And then put the crosswalk in later. If that’s what the chief would like.”

Kenoras-DuckChief hoped Chase council revisits the project. She said the band would be hosting a Truth and Reconciliation event starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30 at the Adams Lake Band office parking lot.

This story has been updated with additional information from the Village of Chase.

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