Coaldale Council explores paths to greater inclusiveness

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

The month of June commemorates both National Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. With these issues top of mind, Coaldale Council recently explored some of the ways the organization can move towards actionable progress in matters which concern  inclusion and equity among residents.

In keeping with ideas of progress and reconciliation, Deputy Mayor of Coaldale,  Jacen Abrey proposed a discussion to revisit an agenda item relating to the now commonplace practice of land acknowledgments.

“I know we have talked about it in previous meetings about doing a land acknowledgment before our council meeting, and I felt it was time we bring it up and discuss it as council and see if it something we want to do as council and should be doing going forward,” Abrey said.

“I am very much in favour of it because we are blessed to be living in this area, and we need to recognize those that were here before us.” Before moving on to discuss June in the context of pride, council passed a motion which directs administration to return to council on June 27 with land acknowledgment suggestions.” This motion was carried unanimously.

As part of agenda item 8.3, council also took part in a robust discussion relating to the organization’s role in continuing to foster a space of inclusivity for community members who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, as well as other marginalized communities.

Mayor Jack van Rijn said, “I wanted to bring this forward as well because again, this was something we have discussed previously at strategic  planning and it is important for we as council must ensure that every single person that chooses to call Coaldale home should feel like they belong and that they are a valued member of our community. All town leaders, including mayor, council and management team has a responsibility to ensure all residents and staff are welcomed and treated with kindness and respect regardless of their gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, or religion.”

The mayor expressed his support in supporting the LGTQ2S+ community by raising the issue of inclusivity in Coaldale and discussing ways council, “can help make sure all residents regardless of sexual orientation or gender, feel that they are a valued member of our community.”

Van Rijn added, “One way we can proceed is that we can have a committee work on different ideas on what needs to be brought up and what needs to be tweaked as far as the hiring processes in Coaldale and the town-owned facilities again, I see that in Lethbridge, Edmonton, there is signage on the door that everybody is welcome.”

Councillor Bill Chapman said during the meeting, “Council and the Town do have a policy on this, (it’s) very clear that it’s a policy that is supposed to be non-discriminatory, I can’t think of the other words for it. But it is very very clear. I’ve always believed that our community is very welcoming on all fronts and for those people.”

Coun. Jason Beekman offered that while attitudes toward marginalized groups have shifted,it can be difficult to know the precise concerns of these communities without the lived experience of belonging to a marginalized community.

“While some of us feel that Coaldale is inclusive, some of us that don’t fall inside the guidelines of those that suffer racial discrimination or discrimination by being a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. What they feel is we have no concept what they feel, I feel that it is a small thing that the town of Coaldale can do.”

“With regards to the motion, is this something we can amend a policy to include that terminology or is this a policy that we have to dictate to the rest of the community? (…) I think we should be speaking for the policies council bears, and not policies other community members believe in or don’t believe in,” said Coun. Chapman.

Council will receive a staff report at an upcoming meeting on July 11 specifically addressing how, “Coaldale can be strongly committed to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure all persons including racialized persons, POC, women, Indigenous persons, disabled, LGBT2S+, and others feel welcome in our community,” said van Rijn.

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