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Awareness campaign coming for street harassment, racism, city said

Calgary will be launching a safety and awareness campaign to address hate crimes after questions were raised in Calgary city council Monday.

Coun. Druh Farrell asked about hate crimes during the question period at the last combined meeting of council before summer break.

Farrell has received numerous letters from Calgarians requesting for the City of Calgary to take action against the growing issues of Islamophobia, violent attacks against Muslims and street harassment.

“People are afraid they see white supremacists emboldened on our streets. They know hate crimes are on the rise, and they just want the right to be safe in their own communities,” Farrell said.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi highlighted the suggestions made last week by Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on how Albertans should protect themselves.

“Apparently, if you are a woman who wears a hijab, and you’re nervous about street harassment, all you have to do is take a can of pepper spray up on in there, and you’ll be just fine. That is, by the way, ridiculous, the response of our Minister of Justice and our premier was not just disappointing, it was shocking,” Nenshi said.

“And by the way, we should also have the failed policy of mandatory minimum sentencing, a policy of 30 years ago, that has proven to be a failure everywhere that it has been attempted. It’s not a deterrence, it leads to incredibly high rates of incarceration of particularly young men of colour.”

While Nenshi finds these suggestions “frustrating” he agrees that more must be done to address the issue.

“We are in a world where too many people are not feeling safe in the city, and even though the city remains an extraordinarily safe place, perception has a terrible way of becoming reality.”

Actions being taken

The City of Calgary administration is working to address Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, street harassment and other issues that may cause Calgarians to feel unsafe.

“Work is already underway to address all forms of street harassment, whether victims are targeted because of their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. So of course, addressing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are both part of that context,” Katie Black, the City’s General Manager of Community Services, said.

“We are developing ways to gather Calgary-specific data to inform future recommendations, which may include the potential for a street harassment-focused bylaw, with options for enforcement.”

Calgarians are now being engaged to understand the systemic challenges associated with street harassment and will be reported back to council early next year, Black said.

“The city is undertaking a number of things to address racism through that work, including co-creating an action plan that addresses systemic racism and discrimination, both within our organization and throughout our community.”

In an effort to make Calgarians feel safe, City administration is about to launch a new safe yyc education and awareness campaign. It will inform people of the steps being taken and increase the number of downtown outreach and addiction partnerships (DOAP).