A draft anti-racial discrimination and anti-racism policy was brought to council during a parks, recreation and social development committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 16, for members to discuss and potentially forward to a regular council meeting for adoption.
After deliberation, however, the policy was tabled for another time, but council did vote for staff to look into developing a working group on diversity, equity and inclusion.
The 11-page anti-racial discrimination and anti-racism document was drafted and delivered to 250 municipalities across B.C., by a Lidstone and Company lawyer, to recognize discussions about advancing equity.
Coun. Lucy Taylor asked if the DOC had policies on other issues such as gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination, asking what the pros and cons may be to having multiple individual policies as opposed to an all-encompassing one.
Thomas acknowledged the councillor’s question, noting he would think on it a bit more, but added that it’s important to recognize the intricacies of each issue under the umbrella of inclusiveness. There should be consideration into ensuring a policy isn’t so broad it actually dilutes it’s intended purpose.
Where Coun. Shelley Sim was concerned was the lack of training noted in the policy, as well as the inclusion of safe spaces where people have the ability to make mistakes as they learn.
“I’m sometimes horrified by how I see things because (how) I was raised, and so when I try and unlearn, that, I feel clumsy. I feel silly,” she said. “I don’t want to move past the point of not saying anything for fear of making a mistake. I want to be part of an organization that it’s safe to learn to be better.”
Coun. Bill Haring disagreed, noting that the policy in front of them is law and is laying out the framework of how to respond in the case of an instance where an employee or contractor of the District is acting in a discriminatory or racist way towards another.
“This is when somebody has broken the bounds of what’s acceptable, whereas the conversation that you’re talking about, that shouldn’t be covered in here at all,” he said. “That’s not discrimination, it’s conversation.”
Coun. Barry Banford had concerns with a couple points in the policy. Section 1.2 states, “The District of Clearwater acknowledges and recognizes the existence in our community of racism in all its forms, including cultural, environmental, institutional, systemic and individual.”
After reading the definition of each, he noted he wasn’t sure if he had ever seen environmental racism — when dangerous and toxic facilities and wastes are located near marginalized communities (people of colour, Indigenous, working class and poor communities) often causing chronic illness and lifestyle changes due to pollution — has happened in Clearwater. He suggested the line be changed to take out “our community” so the statement shows the District acknowledges all forms of racism, but that not all forms may exist in Clearwater.
“I’m not saying it doesn’t exist,” he said. “It makes me just a little uneasy to commit to something that we’re saying exists, and I’m not sure all forms of it do.”
Coun. Sim wondered how and where it would be acknowledged if it isn’t recognized in the community.
“Acknowledging that it exists is actually the first step,” she said. “I think that our community is ready to understand different perspectives and how our actions can be improved.”