The city of Fredericton has put a call out for volunteers to be part of a 15 member task force to address racism in the community.
The task force was announced in August and prospective volunteers have until January 14, 2022 to apply for selection.
According to the city's communications manager, Wayne Knorr, 11 members will be appointed directly by local organizations representing communities that experience racism and discrimination. The other four members will be selected from a pool of candidates obtained through a public call.
The 11 appointed members will select the final four members from the pool of candidates generated from this public call. Once convened, the task force will report to Fredericton city council.
But some residents are questioning why the positions are not paid, given the significance of the work.
Volunteers will be expected to bring issues to the police force for consideration, work with city staff to discuss and propose solutions to issues of systemic racism, and make recommendations to council.
Yusuf Shire is the president of the New Brunswick African Association, which is based in Fredericton.
He said there are growing pains in establishing a task force of this nature.
"This is time consuming....and then it's more like a trauma awakening, people discussing about what they experience with racism. So it will be a challenge really to continue just volunteering throughout the year," said Shire.
He noted that the task force was a strong step in addressing systemic racism and it would take time to get things right. He hopes financial compensation for the work will be something the city implements in the future.
"Fredericton is the first city in New Brunswick to move forward with this process... It's something close to our heart," said Shire.
"So we want to be able to get the work done. Later on, the honorarium or things like that will come up. But we want to be able to see something in place."
Haruka Kudo is the media and event coordinator with the Multicultural Association of Fredericton.
She hopes the task force will address immediate concerns faced by people new to the province.
"MAF has learned of newcomers facing increasing bullying, racism or hate crimes in their schools and neighbourhoods because of their religion or cultures. So through this task force, working collectively, our work will help create a welcoming and inclusive environment."
In response to why the volunteer positions are not paid, Knorr said in an email, "All other City advisory committees and task forces involve unpaid volunteers."
Knorr did not directly address whether the city could change that position.
"The task force has been created to listen and learn about systemic racism and how to address it. The task force will have the ability to make recommendations to City Council."