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Westlock GSA speaks out after plebiscite bans Pride flags and crosswalks in public areas

Students vow to continue to fight for inclusion in Westlock after close vote to ban rainbow flags and crosswalks
R.F. Staples Thunder Alliance gay-straight alliance (GSA) member Shaylin Lussier speaks to the media at the rainbow crosswalk in downtown Westlock the day after the Feb. 22 plebiscite. A total of 663 people voted yes to bylaw 2023-14, while 639 voted no. Once passed, the bylaw will require the town to remove the existing rainbow crosswalk between the town hall and the Westlock Legion and restricts them to flying flags representative of only the municipal, provincial, or federal governments. Crosswalks will also be painted in a traditional white laddered pattern only. Kristine Jean/ WN

Members of the R.F. Staples Thunder Alliance gay straight alliance (GSA) spoke out the day after the Town of Westlock’s plebiscite vote that will see the existing rainbow crosswalk between the town hall and the Westlock Legion removed and painted only in a traditional white laddered pattern and restricts the town to flying flags representative of only the municipal, provincial, or federal governments.  

Members of the GSA vowed to remain strong and do everything they can to continue their fight for inclusion, which began with the painting of the rainbow crosswalk last June and gave many, including GSA member Shaylin Lussier, “a sense of community and belonging.”

“None of this (the vote result) will take that away. It’s upsetting and it’s sad but we’ll come out of it ok,” said Lussier during a press conference at the crosswalk Feb. 23. “We’re going to fight this as much as we can. We’ll do everything to make our world a little brighter.

“Our GSA Thunder Alliance at the school, we worked for a very, very long time to get this crosswalk to be what it was,” she added. “The day we painted it was actually one of the coolest events I’ve ever been to. People were smiling, laughing and just having a really good time and that’s what I remember.”

On the day of the vote, Feb. 22, Lussier joined other members of the GSA outside the Westlock and District Community Hall, as they passed out buttons that read “Proud supporter of R.F. Staples Thunder Alliance: We all deserve to be seen” in a show of support for each other and the LGBTQ2S+ community. They later moved to the GSA classroom at the school to await the plebiscite results, and as they were announced, the devastation sank in.  

“We sat around in a circle and we talked for a couple of hours until the results were posted,” said Lussier. “It was upsetting. I think we all took it really, really hard because that’s what it is. It’s against us, it’s a personal thing.”        

Lussier said they will continue fighting for inclusion in Westlock, a town she calls home and one she remains optimistic about.

“I see a bright future for Westlock. This was only the beginning of a much, much bigger fight. I see people who love our community and that’s what I’d love to see in Westlock’s future,” said Lussier.  

“I think we just pick up our pieces and we move as a group together because the GSA has always been about love and each other and I think that’s how it will always be.”

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Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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