On my way to work last Friday, I saw for the first time that the City of Fredericton has added the trans, black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) flag colour schemes to the preexisting crosswalk on Queen Street painted with a gay pride colour scheme. Seeing this addition to the crosswalk for the first time, gave me a deeply exhausted sense of frustration and anger. I found it infuriating. The City of Fredericton has done nothing to demonstrate that it is an ally of trans and BIPOC Frederictonians. This gesture is not a show of solidarity, but a cheap tokenization of these groups on the part of the city council.
Despite the best efforts of the Fredericton trans community, Clinic 554 will be closing indefinitely, leaving myself along with 3,000 other women, trans people, Indigenous people, and people of colour to lose access to safe abortions within the city limits or hormone replacement therapy, or both.
Funding for medical facilities falls under the provincial jurisdiction, but as we saw during the federal election, Clinic 554 is known across the country. I personally know trans people who have moved to New Brunswick from as far away as Alberta. It is debatably the most broadly known facility in the city. For a long time, the pressure to fund abortions at Clinic 554 was on premier Higgs, and to a lesser extent prime minister Trudeau to withhold medical care funding to the province to force Higgs’s hand and stop him from trying to wait out the outrage.
Higgs, however, managed to do exactly that. Once COVID-19 broke out, withholding medical funding from any province for any reason became out of the question, giving Blaine Higgs the opportunity he needed to ease talk of the Clinic out of public dialogue. Before the pandemic hit New Brunswick, and while Higgs was still just trying to not talk about Clinic 554, would have been an ideal time for the City of Fredericton to put pressure on the Higgs government. If there were ever an opportunity for the municipal government to stand in solidarity with trans people, it was then.
Back in February when CUPE local #508 went on strike in response to their employer not wanting to appear at the bargaining table, the city responded by locking out the workers and then using taxpayer dollars to hire a professional strike breaking corporation based in Ontario that hired scabs from Quebec. The city ceased the contract with this company after a long and loud outcry from the Fredericton community, but clearly if we had let them, they would have gone ahead and kept the scab workers they hired with our money to do what they were here to do.
Public transit is relied upon by an intersectional mix of Fredericton’s migrant and Indigenous communities, along with the students that make up a large portion of Fredericton’s queer community. This has never been enough to make the city do anything to improve the services. In fact, when Fredericton Transit put out a survey that overwhelmingly showed that people wanted bus service on Sundays, the city responded with a campaign to monitor and invade the privacy of Fredericton Transit passengers.
After seeing what the people wanted, our municipal law makers went ahead and did what they wanted. They began installing security cameras on the cities buses and introduced the Hotspot Mobile app to replace physical bus passes (and the possibility of forging them) and the readypass app (which also collected user data, but served accessibility functions as well). They then coerced the local student unions into agreeing to switch our bus pass system from our multi-purpose student ID cards, to the Hotspot app. Now if students would like to use the bus pass that we are required to purchase at the beginning of each academic year, we have to do so through an app that keeps track of our boarding times and location, making it easier for administrators to spot the easiest places to make even more cuts to transit services.
What does the City of Fredericton prefer to fund over public transit? Fredericton Police. In fact, Fredericton has more per capita funding for its police department than any other city in the province. Besides the additions to the pride crosswalk happening at the beginning of pride week, it is also barely a month since two Indigenous people in New Brunswick were killed by police on two separate instances.
To summarize, the city that gives more funding to its police force than any other city in the region decided to make a tokenistic and ultimately meaningless gesture to BIPOC and trans people just a month after two people of colour were murdered in that same region with no words of support or solidarity from the majority parties of any level of government besides the Green party, prolonged campaigns to surveil its citizens and control its employees, and remaining silent as its nationally regarded trans health and abortion clinic was forced to close down. This is all without even mentioning the cities chronic homelessness problem that will undoubtedly become an emergency yet again this coming winter, that they city can think of no other solution for than to ask for money from the province.
The BIPOC rainbow crosswalk was done at the request of the Fredericton Pride Committee. If you are a trans person and/or person of colour who feels represented by this addition to the pride crosswalk, I hope my comments do not invalidate your feelings of inclusion. What I do hope for, is that people will understand that regardless of their feelings on this addition to the pride crosswalk, it was not put there for them. It was not put there for Indigenous people. It was not put there for people of colour, and it was not put there for trans people. They put it there for themselves. It was put there so that the elected officials of this city have something to hide behind when they are accused of racism or transphobia. It is there so that they can say that they are the progressive leaders of this city, and that they care about these groups while continuing to do literally nothing to help us.
Naomi Gullison is a trans student and St. Thomas University graduate who has been living in Fredericton for four years.
– NB Media Co-op Editorial Board: This story was updated with the additional information that the BIPOC crosswalk was done at the request of the Fredericton Pride Committee.