The Town of Fort Macleod took an important step forward when it agreed to join the Canadian Coalition Against Racism and Discrimination.
Now Fort Macleod will share its position with the world.
A new sign proclaiming Fort Macleod a member of the coalition was unveiled Thursday.
“We are proud,” Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre director Susan Simpson said. “We are proud of the town for stepping up and signing on. There are challenges and there are dynamics that go back years and years. This is a first step.”
The sign, which depicts in silhouette people of various backgrounds, was unveiled Thursday at the Fort Macleod Arts Building.
Town council’s decision to join the coalition was the result of a project initiated by Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre.
“Our focus was to build capacity for the youth in Fort Macleod,” Kids First board chairman Ian Stewardson said.
The social inclusion project reached out to older teens who got involved in projects such as hosting a youth conference.
F.P. Walshe school students Raj Parmar and Tyco Magson then made public presentations, including one to town council, about the coalition.
Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services director Angie O’Connor said the students’ presentation was powerful.
“Racism and discrimination divides the community and it jeopardizes everyone’s opportunity to participate in the community fully,” O’Connor said.
Town councillor Donna Houston said it was not a difficult decision for council to join the coalition.
“Social inclusion is central to achieving our goals,” Houston said.
The Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination promotes the idea that municipalities as guardians of public interest make the following commitments:
- Increase vigilance against systemic and individual racism and discrimination.
- Monitor racism and discrimination in the community more broadly as well as municipal actions taken to address racism and discrimination.
- Inform and support individuals who experience racism and discrimination.
- Support policing services in their efforts to be exemplary institutions in combating racism and discrimination.
Alberta municipalities that are members of the coalition are Brooks, Calgary, Drayton Valley, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, St. Albert, Innisfail, Wetaskiwin and Wood Buffalo.
Kids First pushed to have a sign designed and placed in a prominent location.
“It is a statement the Town of Fort Macleod is making in a very public way,” Simpson explained. “We hope it will go way beyond the sign.”
The sign, whose location has yet to be determined, was created by students at Walshe Crossroads Campus under the supervision of Allied Arts Council executive director Carmen Drapeau.
Students who created the sign were Wesley Morrissette, Jasmine Walburger, Tori Pilling, Calvin Bastien, Keenan Weasel Moccasin, Shavaun Big Throat, Brittany Eagle Child, Kenzie Rabbit and Lani Small Legs.
Kids First’s social inclusion project got funding from the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism education fund.
Cam Stewart, who was representing the provincial government fund, said Kids’ First’s project was appealling.
“It’s about making sure we are inclusive,” Stewart said. “It’s about removing barriers in the community.”
Stewart said it fills him with pride to be able to help communities such as Fort Macleod grow.
Stewart also noted Fort Macleod is one of only 10 Alberta municipalities to join the colation.
“It is commitment that on a lot of foundations your town has said yes,” Stewart said.
David Blair Mason of the Alberta Human Rights Commission said it is important to learn more about each other and build understanding.
“The world is a global village now,” Mason said. “The quicker we learn to accept each other and share, the better off we will be.
Differences divide people, Mason said, until they understand each other.
Blood Tribe elder Peter Weasel Moccasin, who opened the gathering with a prayer and later blessed the sign, reflected on the words.
“It’s a very powerful message,” Weasel Moccasin said.