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Anti-racism policy to be drafted by Summerland council

Recent incidents prompted mayor’s call for inclusion policy
Summerland Mayor Toni Boot introduced a notice of motion requesting an anti-racism policy for Summerland. A resolution to have staff draft the policy has received unanimous council suppoort (Summerland Review file photo)

After the mayor of Summerland claimed council needed to publicly acknowledge that racism may exist in the district, staff will draft an anti-racism policy for the community.

At the May 9 Summerland council meeting, council gave its unanimous support to the creation of the policy.

In April, Summerland Mayor Toni Boot, introduced a notice of motion requesting the policy.

“One of the key things we as a council need to do is to publicly acknowledge that racial issues may exist in Summerland,” she said.

In July 2020, the home of an Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was vandalized and racist symbols were spray-painted on the walls. That same evening, similar graffiti was spray-painted at a community facility in downtown Summerland.

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Days later, during a parade in support of the family, a Confederate battle flag was displayed along the parade route.

That summer, council presented two resolutions, one in support of the family and one to include language on the community’s electronic signs to say Summerland is an inclusive community.

In December 2021, hate graffiti appeared, targeting one individual in the community.

“Summerland is not a racist town but these very public incidents show that we have racial issues here and these affect not only the targeted families or individuals, but the entire community,” Boot said. “Everyone regardless of ethnicity or skin colour deserves to feel safe in the town they call home.”

Coun. Erin Carlson supported the anti-racism policy for the community.

“I think it’s an important policy to have,” she said. “I believe that in Summerland everyone is welcome and everyone should feel welcome.”

Coun. Erin Trainer also gave support to the policy.

“It’s just really about saying you belong here and you’re welcome here and we want you here. That applies to everyone,” she said. “We have had incidents of racism here. We need to acknowledge that.”

Coun. Doug Patan said an anti-racism policy should be broadly worded in its language.

“Some of the acts that have happened here are from younger generations that are acting very stupidly,” he added.

During a public comment period earlier in the meeting, Mary-Anne MacDonald raised concerns she had about the potential wording of an anti-racism policy for the community.

“From my perspective, the policy would need to be broader and not exclusive to people of colour and Indigenous people, as the document continually references throughout. That in itself is discriminatory. It seems to be targeting Caucasians specifically,” she said.

While a model of the policy was presented at the 2022 Local Government Leadership Academy forum, held in Richmond in April, the specific wording of the Summerland policy has not been finalized.

The policy would apply to municipal employees, elected officials, contractors, volunteers and students working or volunteering with the municipality or providing services to the municipality.

The percentage of visible minorities in Canada has increased from five per cent in 1980 to 34 per cent in 2021, according to information presented during a Local Government Leadership Academy presentation on equality, diversity and inclusion. The presentation was made in Richmond in April.

The draft of the anti-racial discrimination and anti-racism policy is to be completed by July.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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