Mayor Ken Johnston

Johnston: June is a time for reflections and celebrations

Hello Red Deerians! It is hard to believe we are looking back at the month of June already, and what a month it was. It was a month of reflection, of celebration, of taking a moment to look outside ourselves and appreciate the people around us, and the people that make our community the remarkable place that it is.

Every June, Canadians celebrate National Indigenous History Month, which is an opportunity to honour the heritage, contributions, and cultures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. And on June 21, we pay special attention to celebrating the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences and histories of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Through my work on Council and as Mayor, I have had the great privilege to listen and learn with our local elders and the Urban Aboriginal Voices Society (UAVS) to understand the important relationship indigenous peoples have to the lands we are on today – the lands we now call Red Deer.

We take time this month to honour the culture, heritage, and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people that have been a part of this landscape long before colonial settlement occurred. We stand with the Indigenous community in remembering the past and look forward to affirming our relationship and partnership in actioning our local commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.

Council and I recognize, with humility, that the process of Truth and Reconciliation is one that takes time. We pledge to learn from our mistakes and pursue a mutually respectful relationship. In 2017, City Council and UAVS signed a Protocol Agreement. We are dedicated to continuing our work with UAVS to define and implement the protocol so that we understand how to work together successfully.

I recognize that the work of reconciliation takes time, and I am committed to improving the relationship and partnership between Red Deer’s Indigenous Community and The City of Red Deer. But today we come together to celebrate. To bring community back in touch with these traditional ceremonies. To continue our efforts to strengthen relationships and build an inclusive community.

I would like to personally thank our Indigenous Community for their patience and perseverance in this process of learning how to recognize the past and move forward in a good way. And your patience and trust in me, as you bring me along and continue my journey of growth.

June is also recognized as international Pride Month. A month dedicated supporting our 2SLGBTQQIAA+ community and to recognize the contributions that Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people have made to our community.

The City has a vision to be a vibrant, healthy, and diverse organization that supports a welcoming and inclusive community where everyone feels safe and can fully participate in community life. Celebrating Pride is about sharing hope that things will get better, and that all queer people can be free, safe, and celebrated for who they are.

Participating in Pride is often a beginning of the process of healing from trauma that may have been inflicted in the past. It is necessary to acknowledge those who fought for the progress that has been made in the journey to equality. It’s a time to celebrate and honour the rights that have been afforded because of the efforts of the people who have come before us.

Though June is internationally recognized as Pride Month, Central Alberta Pride Week happens annually in August. For more information on local Pride initiatives, visit www.centralalbertapride.ca.

This month was also a day of celebration. Starting with the Mayor’s Garden Party, which was a wonderful opportunity to thank and appreciate the seniors of Red Deer.

Our senior community helped to build and enrich our community and our culture. It was an honour to gather in person again and celebrate all they have given to us. It was an amazing afternoon and Council and I are already looking forward to next year!

And lastly, Council and I had the complete honour of hosting the Mayor’s Recognition Awards. The Awards recognize Red Deer individuals, groups or teams who have brought honour and recognition to Red Deer. Award recipients are selected by the Mayor’s Recognition Awards Committee, except for the Mayor’s Special Award recipient, which is selected by yours truly.

The annual awards program, which is back after a hiatus due to the pandemic, recognize and thank citizens for their significant contributions to our community. One of my absolute favourite things about Red Deer is the spirit, generosity, and commitment to volunteerism demonstrated by our citizens. Our community is full of people who go above and beyond everyday to make the lives of others better. Alongside my Council colleagues, it was my honour to acknowledge and recognize these deserving individuals and groups who build our community.

This year the Mayor’s Special Award – the highest recognition given by The City of Red Deer – was presented to two individuals. First was Brian Crawford. Brian demonstrated exceptional bravery, courage and compassion when he assisted the victims of a tragic multi-vehicle traffic accident – one that he himself was involved in. Not only did Brian help to save the lives of others involved, but he also comforted and assisted victims as they waited for help to arrive. A truly incredible story!

The second award was presented to Val Jensen. Val’s passion for our community runs deep, leading the charge on many programs, events and initiatives focused on getting people moving and active – especially kids. Just to name a few examples, Val has been involved with include Dance Magic, Woody’s Triathlon, 2019 Canada Winter Games Red Deer is Ready Rally, PCN Fun Run, and the Bower Community Association. Congratulations, Val!

It was a magnificent evening celebrating the best of the best in our community, and a wonderful way to wrap up a busy, yet fulfilling month in Red Deer.

Ken Johnston is the Mayor of Red Deer.