The City of Red Deer has made a commitment with the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CMARD) and is moving forward on their initiatives to create a welcoming and inclusive community.
Tymmarah Zehr, a human resources specialist with a focus on diversity and inclusion, works with the City to create a framework to roll out the 10 common commitments through the CMARD. After months of gathering community input and research, Zehr and other community members are facilitating a conference next month at the Westerner to share the information gathered and the vision of the City.
The Fostering Diverse Communities conference takes place on May 12th from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and May 13th from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The event is free and all members of the community are invited to take part.
Zehr has been facilitating community talks with various groups to gather information that will be used in the Welcoming and inclusive Communities Network, which will gather in November, and assess the work to be done locally.
The Network is not a formal committee of the City of Red Deer, but is led by Zehr and is meant to assist the City in gathering information to move forward on its processes.
“Internally, we have education and awareness programs in place. Anyone who is City staff who is a full-time, permanent employee, must take the introduction to diversity and inclusion,” began Zehr.
“They learn about existing initiatives in the City and legislation related to it. We talk about who the different populations are in the community that might face discrimination, and what barriers they face.”
The CMARD is a division of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The CMARD initiative has 10 common commitments that are carried out within the signed communities, and each city has a different plan based on the needs identified in the community.
In March 2013, the City of Red Deer council passed a motion to become a signatory to the CMARD agreement.
“A municipality the size of Edmonton or Calgary is going to have different needs and resources than somewhere the size of Red Deer, Lethbridge or Grande Prairie, and all of that would be different in a smaller town,” Zehr said.
She said the goal of the Fostering Diverse Communities conference is to create conversation in the community, and to inform people on how the City is working towards being a welcoming and inclusive community.
The conference has a number of speakers that will engage in a variety of topics, from creating diversity and inclusion frameworks to the transgender experience, creating inclusive spaces for persons with disabilities and welcoming newcomers.
“One of the biggest things to becoming a welcoming and inclusive community is also not assuming that we, as people who are not part of a visible minority, know what is best for people who are being discriminated against,” Zehr said.
“We have to include those people in the conversations to ask what they experience and what we can do to stop it. That is a huge emphasis in our framework. We can’t make the assumption that everybody has the same needs.
“Having a framework for diversity means having a vision, gathering resources, sharing information, awareness, campaigning and some way of measuring and evaluating what you’re doing. I’m creating one here in the City of Red Deer, and at the conference we will have someone from Edmonton speak to that city’s framework.”
According to the UNESCO web site, the 10 common commitments are grouped under three broad umbrellas of the municipality as a guardian of public interest, the municipality as an organization in the fulfillment of human rights and the municipality as a community that shares responsibility for respecting and promoting human rights and diversity.
The commitments can be viewed online on the UNESCO web site, and the City of Red Deer web site also provides links for similar information.