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Calgary approves suite of action to examine systemic racism

Calgary will hold public talks on systemic racism in the city and establish an anti-racism action committee after it was approved at city council Monday.

Council responded after unprecedented social action in the city following the death of George Floyd and the support behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rallies were held in Calgary two weeks ago that saw thousands march on Calgary streets demanding action on systemic racism.

An urgent notice of motion was presented at Monday’s council meeting, asking for the city to take several steps toward listening, understanding and then dealing with systemic racism.

When asked why it took the recent Black Lives Matter rallies to prompt this action, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city’s talked a lot about this, but never got to action.

“There is nothing new about the fact that I have said we need to understand why people of racialized minorities in our organization have trouble getting promoted,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“I’ve been saying that for years, but for me, I think my failure’s been personally that I’ve been saying it, but we haven’t gotten to the action.”

What Calgary will do to battle systemic racism

The notice of motion, which was passed unanimously by council Monday, called for a public consultation with presentations from experts. It would allow for public submissions where people could tell their stories.

The city would also create an Anti-Racism Action Committee which would be appointed at the 2020 organizational meeting. That committee would develop an anti-racism strategy for the city.

It also asks the city to look internally at its own policies and practices in the organization.

They have also asked the Calgary Police Commission and the Calgary Police Service to talk about what they’ve done to address systemic racism in the police force, and what they plan to do in the future.

“From a position of privilege that I sit in, I’m ready to listen and I’m ready to learn and then I’m ready to act,” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who put forward the notice of motion.

Mural project referred to later in meeting

Coun. Evan Woolley put forward a motion arising from the anti-racism discussion to provide $120,000 from the public art reserve for four murals to be painted around the city. Those murals would “reflect and tell stories and give expressions about everything that we see taking place,” said Woolley.

“This is a near term initiative that will go a long way in us expressing the kind of city that we are hoping to build through the longer term work of the (previous) notice of motion.

While councillors understood the premise of the motion, they referred it to the end of tomorrow’s session. Some councillors had expressed appreciation for the project, but hadn’t had an opportunity to look at it in detail.