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Calgary councillors urge city to hold public systemic racism consultations

Several Calgary councillors are urging the municipal government to host public consultations on systemic racism, and also want to see an anti-racism action committee created to develop and implement a strategy for the city.

In a notice of motion set to go before council on Monday evening, councillors Ward Sutherland, Joe Magliocca, Jyoti Gondek, George Chahal, Jeff Davison, Druh Farrell, Evan Woolley, Gian-Carlo Carra, Ray Homes, Jeromy Farkas, Shane Keating and Mayor Naheed Nenshi are asking council to “respond to citizen requests to hold a public consultation on systemic racism.”

The consultations would include presentations from experts as well as submissions from the public.

Calgarians have flooded the streets during several anti-racism and anti-police violence demonstrations in recent weeks, much of which was prompted by the death of George Floyd, an American Black man who died in custody after a violent arrest.

The councillors putting forward the notice of motion said the protests “have articulated the clear and compelling reasons to redouble our efforts to achieve structural adjustments to existing inequalities within our city and our society by listening to and learning from those who have been impacted by systemic racism.”

The notice also highlights a number of things the city has done in the recent past to help combat racism and amplify inclusivity in the city, including a 2019 bill that unanimously passed to oppose Quebec’s Bill 21, approving the establishment of a public safety task force earlier this year, and joining the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination.

“Despite the prevalence of these aforementioned policies and programs, structural inequalities persist and further marginalize many Calgarians, particularly those who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, who find themselves unable to live lives of full potential and dignity,” the notice said.

“Citizens around the world are demanding more accountability from public safety and policing organizations regarding the implementation of anti-racism practices and policies, and Calgarians would benefit from a more transparent discussion around the many efforts of the Calgary Police Service in working toward a citizen-overseen, community-policing, community-based participatory police service model.”

The notice also cites the fact that Calgary city council itself, as well as the city’s administrative leadership team, isn’t “reflective of our community in terms of gender and racial diversity.”

Along with holding public consultations, the notice of motion also calls on the city to create an anti-racism action committee, which would develop a strategy to cover the following:

  • identify systemic barriers to accessing City of Calgary programs and services
  • identify language barriers in accessing information regarding City of Calgary programs and services
  • identify opportunities to work with community partners and organizations on actions to address structural racism on a community-wide level
  • be diverse and inclusive, and a true reflection of Calgary’s residents

The councillors also want council to direct city administration to re-evaluate its internal practices and policies — including budget deliberations, organizational structure, human resources and procurement — through the Diversity and Inclusion Framework lens.

If passed, the motion would also see councillors, staff and the city’s administration participate in “mandatory training on anti-racism best practices as soon as possible, and commit to recurring training no less than once every four years.”

The notice of motion also called for change in Calgary’s policing, asking that council approve asking the Calgary Police Commission to report on any anti-racism work that is underway or being considered, as well as plans for “engaging in a broader conversation with the community on the future of policing in a diverse city.”

The councillors also want the public safety task force to include systemic racism issues in its scope.

Edmonton launched a days-long public hearing on systemic racism last week, with Mayor Don Iveson saying ahead of its start he hoped it would give councillors and the public “some empathy for all of the heartfelt and pained expressions, particularly around Black, Indigenous and people of colour’s experience with public safety in our community, which I think council wishes to respond to thoughtfully and meaningfully, but we need to hear more to be able to do that.”

The notice of motion is expected to be discussed at city council on Monday evening.

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