Vancouver
3 min

Rainbow victory

Now if the West End Business Improvement Association would only apologize

I’m getting rainbow banner whiplash from the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA), but at least this time the pain is somewhat pleasurable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled the WEBIA is now planning to keep our rainbows. I’m just having a hard time keeping up with its arguments.

“We are retaining the Pride banners in the Davie Village but the rest of the West End is going to get new artwork,” Robert Graham, WEBIA’s new gay president, announced Aug 21, adding the rainbows “will always be in the village. Always.”

So far so good. The Davie Village gets to keep its symbols of gay Pride, place and community. The community itself stood up and demanded recognition —and won. What could be better?

Well, an apology from the WEBIA wouldn’t hurt.

Something like: “We’re sorry we failed to grasp the significance of the rainbow and the gay community’s claim to the gay village from the start, but we get it now and it won’t happen again, future triathlons and straight business pressures be damned. In fact, we are implementing a community consultation system so the unpleasantness of the last few months won’t be in vain.”

As if. Not only is an apology not forthcoming, but WEBIA representatives are only sporadically owning that any conflict happened at all.

“You know there was never any comment about removing the rainbow,” Graham said only minutes after he announced that WEBIA had “listened to the community” and is now committed to maintaining the unique identity of the Davie Village.

Never any comment about removing the rainbow? Huh?

Then there’s WEBIA executive director Lyn Hellyar.

Asked about the decision to keep the rainbows, Hellyar says “we listened to the community and as a board they decided that keeping the Pride flag in the Davie Village was the best thing to do.”

Promptly followed by: “I have never told anyone that there would not be Pride flags in the Davie Village, not once, because we have a commitment to the community.”

Again I say: Huh?

To be fair, she did say all along that the rainbow banners —once she admitted they were coming down —would be replaced by rainbow flags on 18 flagpoles. So she always maintained there would be some rainbow presence in the Davie Village.

But she also portrayed the plan to erect those flagpoles as already well underway when in fact authorization from the city was far from assured.

And of course she was less than forthcoming about her intention to take the rainbow banners down at all, initially assuring the community the triathlon banners were only temporary and only later revealing that she never planned to re-mount our banners afterwards.

So I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to the WEBIA’s rainbow reassurances.

Not to mention its commitment to the village’s gay character overall. We may have won the rainbow battle but the larger battle to maintain our claim to our gay village is far from over.

Take Davie Day, for example.

Asked how the day will reflect the village’s gay character and identity, Hellyar says she doesn’t understand the question.

“You do realize that Davie Day is an event that plans to celebrate our historical past and our diversity and it’s for the whole family,” she says.

Yes, in fact I do. And I know that family takes many shapes in our community and among our neighbours. And I also know that the inaugural Davie Day in 2004 made a big deal about the village’s gay historical roots and its ties to BC’s first gay premier, Alexander Davie.

So it is possible to celebrate all three of those elements in a way that honours our community’s historical and ongoing connection to our village.

Hellyar insists “it’s not a simple question” and refuses to go any further with it.

But apparently she’s now more than willing to seek a proclamation from the mayor that the Davie Village is “the core of the gay neighbourhood in Vancouver” and even to add rainbows to our street signs.

“Putting street signs on that demarcate this is the gay village is my idea and it’s been in the works for a while,” she claims.

Really? I mean I’m all for it, but I think I’m going to need a neck brace.