The City of Chestermere is hoping to make residents of all walks of life feel comfortable and safe within the community, with the adoption of a new diversity and inclusion policy June 18.
According to Joanne Kinya Mugambi, the City’s diversity and inclusion strategist, the policy is just a taste of what’s to come for the community.
“We are definitely striving to be a leader in Alberta. We are a very fast-growing municipality, and that means that we're also attracting people from varied backgrounds,” she said. “We want to be sure that we can accommodate them as a municipality.”
Mugambi has been working in the position for just three months, but said she is proud of what the municipality has already accomplished in such a short time.
“This role evolved out of a need to work specifically with diversity and inclusion in the city,” she said. “Prior to that, I was the senior co-ordinator for Community and Neighborhood Services, and through that, I saw that a lot of the diversity work that needed to be done in the community was missed out just because we had a multitude of priorities.”
To that end, she said, administration drafted the diversity and inclusion policy, which lays out a list of responsibilities, such as inclusive and open governance, for different roles within the City – including council, the chief administrative officer and administration.
“All City residents and employees will be treated fairly and with respect,” the policy states. “The City encourages the active, equitable and full participation of every person and their diverse life experiences and point of view.”
Mugambi said it was important for council to approve the policy to help “build our principles from within,” adding it’s crucial for the City to provide equal and inclusive service to all residents.
Council also recently endorsed an anti-bullying bylaw that allows peace officers to take action in instances of harassment or abuse. Mugambi said the bylaw works “hand-in-hand” with the new inclusion policy by helping make residents feel comfortable and safe.
And, according to Mugambi, the City’s efforts are already paying off.
“We're so happy that our pride event went very smoothly. We didn't have any vandalism, we didn't have any counter-protest or anything,” she said. “The community seemed to really come together in a good way – but, should anything have happened, we know that we were protected.”
The City announced an official Pride Week proclamation, which declared June 24 to 30 as the City’s annual pride celebration. Additionally, in the spirit of recognition and an act towards reconciliation, Mugambi said council issued an Indigenous Awareness Week proclamation, as well. The event will take place in the city annually from June 17 to 21, and aims to increase awareness of Indigenous history and issues.
“[A proclamation is] a way for us to show our support to the community and let them know that this is the time we are taking to celebrate a specific group of people [or] a specific event, and to make sure that everyone's included in understanding what the event is about,” Mugambi said.
She added she is optimistic the policy and proclamations are taking Chestermere in the direction of becoming an inclusive community. She said the City has the right attitude, moving forward.
“Our leadership comes through our connections with the community. We're unique in terms of what our strategy is – it's more of leading from within the community and not above the community, and that way, we become more relatable,” Mugambi said. “I think it's very important for us to take on these things as a city.”