Where we are: In the spring of 2020, a student of mine asked me what was going to happen when people stop protesting, when people go back to their lives, when BLM chants quiet down and George Floyd turns from a chant, to a whisper, to a thought, to a memory. I said, “Don’t worry, there will be another protest.” And there was. For Dalia Kafi. For Joyce Echaquan. For thousands of unmarked graves. And thousands more to be found. It was harsh, inappropriate, and raw. But we looked at each other and knew this fight wasn’t over.
I can’t protect my students anymore from the realities of the world they will face outside of the classroom, but I can fight to change them. I can bring them truth. And maybe from there we will meaningfully work towards reconciliation.
The systems that we live within were built with inequities at every level. Too often, systemic inequality is seen as moments in our past. And yet, you and I still see, hear, and feel the inequalities of our systems and institutions. They are not moments from our past, they are realities of our present.
If we are to actually end racist, sexist, and discriminatory systems, we need to confront them today and always. We can no longer only express shock at racist Tiki Torch marches, and stop at "thoughts and prayers." We need action, and action now.
Where we can go, together: Fighting systemic discrimination in all of our institutions requires uncompromising spirit, courage, and hard work. Healing the injustices of our past and present is necessary to make sure our city lives up to the promise of our future.
To do this, we must recognize the strength and value in harm reduction strategies. We can no longer rely solely on reactionary systems to help those in need. Rather, we must fund the organizations already doing the work, and create new networks to support people before they ever find themselves in marginalized and vulnerable positions. Calgarians deserve a robust and resilient social service system that reflects the realities of those it serves.
One thing is clear: the economic, social, and environmental cost of systemic discrimination is a heavier burden on our society than the cost of investing in the solutions that will create an inclusive and equitable Calgary.
Social: As a city, we have waited too long to respond meaningfully to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action within our municipal powers, and as identified within the White Goose Flying Report. We must act now. This means educating every single public employee on our history, our systems, and the impacts they have on racialized and marginalized communities. Embracing systemic change is necessary to uplift everyone, but we must prioritize addressing the injustices done to Indigenous, Black, and all marginalized peoples that have gone unaddressed and continue to cause harm and pain.
Our city services must reflect our commitment to justice. We need more wraparound services for the most vulnerable; a continued expansion of physical and mental health supports; amplification of marginalized voices in city decisions; and the creation of culturally responsive public spaces and housing options. This work is not easy, but it must take precedence if we are to build a city where everyone is a part of our success.
Economical: The built into our systems and institutions have created barriers for many citizens to engage in Calgary’s economy. The barriers that exist prevent a whole section of Calgarians from achieving their economic potential in our system. Focusing on reducing barriers to economic participation through job retraining, language services, early childhood care and education, mental health supports, harm reduction strategies, poverty reduction strategies have proven to be more of an effective measure than reactive policies.
Environmental: Those who are socially, economically, or institutionally marginalized are especially vulnerable to environmental impacts. Any environmental action that doesn’t meaningfully reflect marginalized experiences is incomplete. As part of our commitment to honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, we must include Indigenous connections to land.
- Support and expand housing access as a first response to poverty.
- Investigate municipal opportunities to provide, subsidize, or partner with organizations to offer low-cost/sliding scale access to Childcare and Early Learning Programs.
- Review existing hiring practices and disaggregated data collection to evaluate the representation of marginalized groups in City staff positions including, but not limited to, administrative roles, leadership positions, and committee and board positions.
- Institute an Intersectional Demographic Census to further support precise programming and supports for Calgarians.
- Expand language support options for communications between The City and the public, including 311, calgary.ca website, public hearings, city budget, Planning and Development information and outreach/engagement activities.
- Identify specific resources to investigate, plan, and execute recommendations from the White Goose Flying Report which require collaboration between City departments and arms-length organizations by end of 2023, including reports back to relevant committees, Council, and the public.
- City Council and City departments to fulfill their respective recommendations from the White Goose Flying Report, with a goal of satisfying the recommendations by end of 2024, including a report back to Council and the public.
- Expand services and programs offered with Fair Entry.
- Investigate and create strategic partnerships to end food insecurity.
- Expand partnerships between The City and organizations offering mental health supports for the community.
- Advocate for changes to the Police Act and expand citizen oversight of Calgary Police Service.
- Expand support for social agencies that do work to mitigate the root causes of violence.
- Advocate, support, and facilitate programs intended to validate international employment certification for newcomers to Calgary.