A new community-driven network designed to foster a place where everyone is welcome officially launched on Thursday.
The Red Deer Welcoming and Inclusive Communities (WIC) Network will help the city in its 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.”
Taz Kassam, co-chair of the Red Deer WIC Network, said the goal is to address the 10 common commitments that have been outlined by the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD). One goal is to involve the community by giving members a voice in anti-racism initiatives and decision making.
Another is to support measures to challenge racism and discrimination and to provide diversity and equal opportunities for all of us in the community, said Kassam.
“Red Deer has always been welcoming and inclusive for a lot of individuals but I think part of the discussion that needs to happen is how to strengthen and grow for the future,” said Kassam. “For example our Indigenous community … we need to provide some awareness and some support there. As well with our newcomers to Red Deer, that’s of particular importance. At this point it’s important to start the discussion and develop a plan and move forward.”
The network will provide education and awareness of racism while promoting empathy and compassion. Over the next few months, the group will create a needs assessment in the community to identify barriers or challenges to access city services. An action plan will be developed and the findings will be presented to council sometime this year.
Kassam said the group has been meeting since November setting out its terms of reference and its goals. The most recent initiative is to help the city host the Fostering Diverse Communities Conference on May 12 and 13 at Westerner Park. Keynote speakers include Tanya Kappo of the Idle No More movement and Walking with Our Sisters and Zarqa Nawaz, creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie and Ahmed Knowmadic, a Somali-Canadian Slam poet. Find out more at www.wic-ab.ca
The City of Red Deer became a signatory to the CCMARD in 2013. It is one of 68 municipalities across Canada and one of 16 in Alberta that have signed on to the coalition.
Mayor Tara Veer said this is a timely and essential endeavor for the city. She said the city deems it a priority to foster a welcoming and inclusive community.
The network includes members from various groups such as Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association, Central Alberta PRIDE, Central Alberta Refugee Effort, Correctional Service of Canada, The Golden Circle, the Indigenous community and other individual advocates and agencies.