A former Whitehorse city councillor is calling on the current council to reactivate an advisory committee that was mandated to fight discrimination and racism.
Mike Gladish, who served as a councillor from 2012 to 2015, addressed current council members in a presentation by phone at the April 19 council meeting, requesting the reactivation of the Whitehorse committee for what was previously the Canadian Coalition Of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination Advisory Committee.
The coalition has since rebranded itself as the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities, though the goals remain the same, with a focus by member municipalities on initiatives that promote social inclusion as well as human rights and diversity, and establishing policies to eradicate racism and discrimination.
As Gladish noted, Whitehorse was one of a number of municipalities in the country to sign on to the organization in 2013. The Whitehorse committee was suspended in 2017 as the city was working on a new bylaw governing advisory committees. A new umbrella advisory committee bylaw was adopted in 2017, but the committee would be deemed disbanded at this point, city manager Linda Rapp stated later in the council meeting.
Gladish argued the committee should be reactivated and, if work on that started now, a new committee could be in place in time to begin advising the new council to be elected in October.
He also pointed to the Stop Asian Hate memorial vigil held in Whitehorse on March 27, which drew 150 people paying tribute to eight people killed in a mass shooting in Atlanta on March 16.
“It was also a demonstration against the disturbing increase in crimes against people with Asian ancestry,” he said.
He then highlighted comments from memorial organizer Fumi Torigai who stated that no one should live in fear and it’s important to speak up on such issues, that silence is not an option. Torigai stressed the importance of creating a society free from discrimination and noted that close to 1,000 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported across Canada since March 17, including insults, death threats and spitting.
“Whitehorse is not immune to hateful acts, discrimination or public policies that may be based in a racist history,” Gladish said, going on to acknowledge Whitehorse city council’s support of a resolution one week earlier aimed at addressing racism.
That resolution will see the City of Whitehorse and City of Dawson councils bring forward a declaration to the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC) that, if adopted, would commit AYC to provide members with anti-racism training and education on an annual basis and for the organization to seek external funding for that training as needed.
Reactivating the city’s committee would be an opportunity to act further on the resolution it will bring to AYC, Gladish said.
He went on to note there’s a number of Whitehorse citizens “ready and willing to sit on a reactivated committee.” It should consist of concerned citizens representing racialized groups or those who are marginalized due to social status or sexual identity.
“As a former councillor, I see this as an opportunity to engage with citizens who are eager to share their knowledge and experience,” Gladish said, urging council to bring forward a resolution for the committee to be reactivated in May.
“Let’s hold the community up,” he said.
Coun. Steve Roddick brought the matter up later in the meeting, confirming with Rapp that the committee is considered to be disbanded at this point. He suggested racism and reconciliation should be made a strategic priority.
He also encouraged those from Whitehorse’s racially diverse communities to put their names forward to run in the October municipal election.
Meanwhile, Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, who is part of the national coalition, noted the change in name was a rebranding as opposed to a disbanding of the organization with members like Whitehorse still part of the organization.
“We never considered any of the members of that coalition to have been dropped or stepped away because we did the rebranding exercise,” she said. “We continue to believe that those members are still members of …. the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities.”
She suggested the issue should be discussed at the city council’s next strategic planning meeting.
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