Urban Aboriginal Voices Society’s community facilitator Tanya Ward-Schur said central Alberta Indigenous community faces racism and discrimination. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

Helping bridge gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous community in central Alberta

Racism, homelessness, health, housing are only some of the issues Indigenous people in central Alberta face every day.

The Red Deer Urban Aboriginal Voices Society hosted an all day workshop Thursday to discuss some of the issues.

Tanya Ward-Schur, community facilitator at the society, said there’s still systematic racism, discrimination and Indigenous people are looking to create more opportunities to have conversations and connect.

“Those are the things that can create that sacred space for restorative kinds of conversations that we need to strengthen our connections with one another, both with Indigenous and non Indigenous community,” she explained.

The connection part goes back to reconciliation in Canada.

Ward-Schur said we live in a time of “mudbog,” where there is no clear path and it’s muddy and difficult to proceed.

“But unless all of us are willing to get dirty, we’re going to get stuck.

“We’re in a time in history where people are more polarized, more vocal, about their ideas,” she said.

At the annual workshops, the society invites people from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community along with community agencies and allies. At Thursday’s workshop, many central Alberta agencies were part of the discussions including City of Red Deer, Central Alberta Refugee Effort, Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, Alberta Health Services, Red Deer Native Friendship Society, RDC Indigenous Student Services and Red Deer Public School District.

The goal is to discuss both issues and possible solutions. One such solution is creating awareness and education.

Ward-Schur said at the end of the workshop, society members work on creating that awareness piece through accountability and using both conventional media and social media. For example, the society has been working on Indigenous homelessness for several years, as it was one of the issues raised in the past.

Those with the Urban Aboriginal Voices Society, are encouraged to join the society’s groups called “domains” to work on issues, bridge the gap in the community and reduce barriers for Indigenous people. Some of the domains include housing, education, employment, justice, culture and youth and family.

Those looking to join the conversation can attend some of the upcoming events in Red Deer.

A free Community Power of One event March 21 will feature keynote speakers Michael Dawe and Schur. The event will be an insightful conversation and workshop about reconciliation and radicalization.

Indigenous Student Services at Red Deer College and various community partners are hosting a Red Deer Community Round Dance March 20 at 6 p.m. at Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.

The college is also hosting a free film screening of “Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up” Friday at RDC Arts Centre. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the society, visit aboriginalvoices.ca.


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