The City of Whitehorse has decided to join the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination after all.
In a unanimous vote Monday, council elected to join the UN-based organization.
But last week it wasn’t clear which way the council would vote. Some councillors were criticized for waffling.
“I find some of the disparaging comments directed toward members of council rather interesting given the topic that we have in hand here,” said Mayor Bev Buckway on Monday.
But scornful comments notwithstanding, the controversy at least got people talking about the issue of racism and discrimination, which was for the best, said Jocylin Curteanu, the former vice-president of the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon.
“The truth of the matter is I think this actually was a good thing that it happened,” she said. “It brought this issue of discrimination out to the forefront again.
“It raised peoples’ awareness.”
Signing onto the coalition is a “no brainer,” said Coun. Dave Stockdale.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “I think (by) signing this document we’re sending a clear message to the community that racism is not acceptable in this community.”
But he admitted that he wasn’t the most open-minded.
“Over the years I’ve been racist and I’m sure a lot of people in this room have been as well,” said Stockdale.
“I said to someone the other day, you don’t hear too many Ukrainian jokes any more, but you used to hear them a lot when I first came to this country, so somebody is making the impression out there that’s the right one.”
Both of his sons married into Asian families, something that really opened his eyes.
“I was proud of them for doing that,” said Stockdale.
“And I thought that’s how the world should be.
“We should be able to integrate and join together as one sort of human race.”
One of the concerns that council had before signing onto the coalition had to do with the potential costs associated with the committing to the organization.
And that’s what Coun. Dave Austin said he was referring to when he insisted last week that council needed to hear other views on the issue.
“If I offended anybody last week with my remarks, I apologize for that,” Austin said.
“I did not intend to be offensive in my remarks. I was simply doing what every councillor at this table does with every issue that comes to us, letting you know that we have to do a bit of due diligence.
“We can’t just jump into these things.”
While signing onto the coalition commits a municipality to the development of a strategic plan to combat racism and discrimination in the community, there are no mandated timelines or financial requirements.
Nevertheless, the city plans to take a look at just what that commitment means during the next round of strategic planning.
“I think our priorities have come to light today and I appreciate that,” said Coun. Ranj Pillai.
“It’s not about who you are, where you come from, what race you are, what socio-economic background you have. When you come here it’s all about what you bring to the table and if you’re ready to work hard, you’re ready to contribute to your community and if you have positive ideas then everybody’s accepted.”
But while issues of race dominated the debate, all forms of discrimination need to be addressed, said Coun. Betty Irwin.
“There is still gender discrimination,” she said. “There is still discrimination against people with disabilities.
“Let’s not just be looking at this from the point of view of racism. Let’s also look at other forms of discrimination and be sure we include those as well when we are signing this proclamation.”
The city will formally sign onto the coalition on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
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