Pro-life flag proposed in Smithers across from pride flag

A dozen people are standing on a rainbow crosswalk on Main Street in Smithers.
Smithers Pride Society and supporters stand on the rainbow crosswalk on Main Street in Smithers. Photo courtesy of Smithers pride.
Pamela Haasen - CICK - SmithersBC | 18-09-2023
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Earlier in the summer, two representatives of Smithers Pro-Life Society made a delegation to Smithers town council regarding a pro-life flag and sidewalk to be hung and painted along Main Street. Though that delegation took place a few months ago, it prompted a lot of discussion about some of the issues raised.  Our community reporter Madeleine Ghatavi has been preparing a two part podcast series exploring the issues raised.

The placement of their proposed sidewalk is on the opposite side of an intersection on Main Street where the current pride sidewalk is painted. When Betty Bandstra and Jessica Vandergaag (Pro-Life Society members) presented this to council, they claimed it was "only fair" to represent both groups equally.

This delegation sparked a discourse among groups in Smithers (primarily the Pro-Life supporters and LGBTQ2IA+ supporters) about representation of beliefs in a civic environment. The town is responsible for approving all belief symbols to be displayed on Main Street, and when the Pride Society proposed a crosswalk to be painted in 2015, the eventual decision to approve was passed after much debate in council.

Madeleine Ghatavi, an 18-year old from Smithers, found this debate interesting because of the common use (or deployment) of the term "free speech". In an effort to understand the desires and beliefs on both sides of the decision by council to approve or deny a pro-Life symbol on Main Street in Smithers, she conducted individual interviews as well as hosted a panel discussion at CICK's station. Over the summer, she has been working on this story and the issues it raises, and has prepared a two part podcast.

Today's episode features Betty Bandstra and Jessica Vandergaag (Pro-Life Society), Frank Wray (Smithers town councillor), and Kate Neidmeyer, a local medical doctor. River Wilde was the representative from the Pride group, but was not able to be present for the panel discussion, though they were interviewed individually.

Below is part one of Crosswalks by Madeleine in which she holds a forum for debate on the divisive issue of representation.