Dialogue on diversity

The City of Red Deer wants to build a community where everyone feels safe and able to fully participate in the community.

The City of Red Deer wants to build a community where everyone feels safe and able to fully participate in the community.

Starting on Sept. 23, the city will host 10 community conversations that will shine the spotlight on how Red Deer is doing in its efforts to become a welcoming and inclusive community. The sessions run until Sept. 30.

The community workshops are part of the city’s commitment to UNESCO’s Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. The city became a signatory on March 18, 2013, joining 14 communities in Alberta and 63 in Canada.

The community conversations will help identify what’s missing, what’s available and inform an action plan to fill the gaps in Red Deer.

“It is an opportunity for people to come and learn what the vision is from the city and learn about what the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism means,” said Tymmarah Zehr, the the city’s human resource specialist — diversity and inclusion. “We will talk about the different dimensions of diversity.”

Zehr was hired in May to take the lead on the initiative within city departments and in the community. She has worked in the field for nearly 10 years in Grande Prairie, Edmonton and as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association’s program manager for welcoming and inclusive communities initiatives. She recently completed her masters degree in International and Intercultural Communication. Her thesis was about newcomer integration into a host community.

“The City of Red Deer is looking at the wide aspect of diversity not just newcomers which is often the focus with the welcoming and inclusive initiatives,” she said. “They are looking at all the aspects which I think is phenomenal.”

That includes newcomers, multi-culturalism, multi-faith, persons with disabilities, sexual gender minorities, aboriginal people, seniors, youth, women and other aspects.

Zehr said she hopes to find the “hot topics” that should be discussed in Red Deer and put a plan together to address them. In her four months on the job, she has heard some concerns about aboriginal relations and integration of newcomers in the city.

“Those appear to be the top two but there is also the ability-related topic,” said Zehr. “A lot of people are interested in reducing the barriers for persons with disabilities.”

She said the concern about aboriginal relations is actually coming from non-Aboriginal people. She said the Truth and Reconciliation report is out there and people are very aware and want to take action to make things better for the community.

The city has been working on developing a welcoming and inclusive community for several years but focused on the newcomers perspective. Zehr said this initiative is building on work that has already been done.

The city will take the information from the workshops and create an action plan to address the issues stemming from the conversations. It will also develop a welcoming and inclusive communities network in Red Deer. Diversity champions in the community who will be part of the network will be identified. They are the leaders in the community who are either working in the diversity roles or organizations or stakeholders, said Zehr.

The city will post information on services and resources available for the various diversity groups on its website.

For a full list visit of conversations and to register visit www.reddeer.ca/whats-happening/open-houses/

Call Zehr at 403-406-8649 or tymmarah.zehr@reddeer.ca if you have questions.