Rainbow stairs a new ‘beacon’ of hope in Naden

Bring your authentic self to work. Ashley Evans, Sailor First Class Charleyne Oulton, and Major Rachel Middleton begin a painting project organized by the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization. The set of stairs located next to the Base Orderly Room was painted in 11 different colours of the progressive rainbow flag on Aug. 23 in recognition of Public Service Pride Week. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A permanent pride flag now adorns a well-travelled staircase at CFB Esquimalt.

The staircase’s risers between the Base Orderly Room and Nelles Block now have a new colour scheme, representing the progressive colours of the rainbow flag and LGBTQ2+ pride.

“It’s permanent and gives our communities a lot of visibility,” said Master Sailor (MS) Erin Rautenstrauch, Military Co-chair of Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO).

On Aug. 23, DTPAO members with the support of the base community grabbed their brushes and paint cans to paint the colours of the progressive rainbow flag on the stairs. The painting coincided with Public Service Pride Week, Aug. 22 to 26, and this year’s theme, Bring Your Authentic Self To Work.

MS Rautenstrauch said discussions about painting the stairs began in 2021 but ramped up in the past couple of months.

“It is a historic event for members of the LBGTQ2+ community at the base, and it lets people know we are here and an important part of the military community,” she said.

Commander (Cdr) Dan Saunders, Commanding Officer of Base Administration (BADM) made the symbolic first brush stroke on the lower portion of the stairs. During his opening remarks, Cdr Saunders said the flag would be a good reminder that inclusion is a priority of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“This permanent installation will act as a prominent display of our support to LGBTQ2+ communities, and will be a symbol of our commitment to making sure all community members are welcome here at CFB Esquimalt,” Cdr Saunders said.

Public Service Pride Week kicked off with raising the Progressive Pride Flag on more than 140 federal buildings across the country and at Canadian embassies and consulates worldwide.

Captain (Navy) Matthew Coates, Commander Naval Personnel and Training Group (NPTG) and champion for MARPAC DTPAO, said that Public Service Pride Week is a celebration of inclusion, respect and creating safe spaces for people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identities and expression.

“Every member of the CAF and DND is entitled and welcomed to be their authentic, whole selves at work. This is the type of work environment that will allow everyone to contribute and thrive,” Capt(N) Coates said entirely.

Sailor First Class (S1) Charmaine Davison-Peer said the staircase is a “beacon of hope.”

“We are telling people we are accepting of you, you can be yourself and be comfortable and there is nothing to be afraid of,” she said.

S1 Davison-Peer is a DTPAO member who works as a Naval Communicator (NAVCOM) at MARPAC HQ. She and her daughter are both members of the LBGTQ2+ community.

Major (Maj) Rachel Middleton of Joint Task Force (Pacific) (JTF(P)) also took part in the painting. She said coming out to the event, painting the stairs and showing her support to the community were very important to her.

“I think it’s important to have a physical representation about pride and support for it other than just being vocal,” Maj Middleton said.

The DTPAO works closely with the Positive Space Working Group (PSWG), which focuses on the training and education of the base community. The DTPAO is part of a more comprehensive network of five advisory groups at the local and regional levels offering guidance to Canadian Armed Forces Leadership. The other groups are the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG), Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG), Defence Women’s Advisory Organization (DWAO), and Defence Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (DAGPD).

The stairs were painted in the standard six rainbow colours along with five additional
progressive colours:

  • Red represents life
  • Orange for healing
  • Yellow for sunlight
  • Green for nature
  • Blue for serenity
  • Purple for the spirit
  • The newly added colours were developed for the Philadelphia pride flag in 2017.
  • Black represents community members lost to AIDS
  • Brown represent people of colour Pink, baby blue and white represent transgender people 

Members of the Defence Team gather on the stairs at Naden Building No. 30 on Aug. 23 to celebrate the start of a painting project by the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization. The set of stairs located next to the Base Orderly Room was painted in the colours of the Progressive Rainbow Flag for Public Service Pride Week. Credit: Peter Mallett/Lookout.

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