With a 38 per cent increase in hate crimes in Alberta, some Red Deer groups are doubling down on promoting tolerance.
Avery Acheson, community engagement manager for the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE), said there are many “good things” happening that his group would rather focus on, instead of reports that indicate extremism is on the rise in Alberta.
A Community Power of One gathering recently held by CARE, the Welcoming and Inclusion Communities Network and the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association is one of these positives, he said.
“Last night’s candlelight vigil, remembering victims of the attacks in Sri Lanka” is another one, said Acheson, referring to Thursday’s event.
While members of CARE and Red Deer’s Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Network expressed concerns in January about downtown anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant protesters igniting fears in the community, neither group was willing to respond on Friday to statistics showing a sharp rise in police-reported hate crimes in Alberta and across Canada.
“We are a non-political organization … Our focus is on creating welcoming and inclusive communities,” said Acheson.
Deirdre Ashenhurst, co-chair of Red Deer’s Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Network, also declined to comment, explaining in an email that an increase in news reports focusing on extremist groups only adds to their membership.
“We would be happy to participate in positive articles written about diversity and inclusion in Red Deer,” Ashenhurst replied.
This week, an Edmonton TV station released draft results of a yet-to-be-released study that found Alberta was becoming home for a number of extremist movements.
The federally funded report from the Organization for the Prevention of Violence examined six types of groups in the province, including white supremacists, supporters of Al-Qaeda, alt-right and extremist left-wing groups.
According to Stats Canada, hate crimes in Alberta rose by 40 per cent from 2014 to 2015 and another 38 per cent from 2016 to 2017. The report’s writers feel this province has a disproportionate amount of these crimes because economic downturns tend to spark extremism.
Nearly all of the 350 or so people interviewed for the document — including police, community leaders and social workers — felt things were getting worse across Canada.
One explanation given is a global political climate where discrimination and “us-vs-them narratives are taking hold.”
Meanwhile, corporate Canada has been telling politicians not to make immigration an election issue, as they fear more Canadians will turn against allowing newcomers into the country.
Business Council of Canada president and CEO Goldy Hyder said there’s an economic case to be made for allowing even more foreigners in.
“We are 10 years away from a true demographic pressure point,” Hyder said during a meeting in Ottawa.
“What I’ve said to the leaders of the political parties on this issue is, ‘Please, please, do all you can to resist making this election about immigration.’ That’s as bluntly as I can say it to them.”
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