City set to give groups $215K in grants to curb racism in Edmonton

·3 min read
Demonstrators held several anti-racism rallies last year in Edmonton as city launched public hearing into systemic racism within the police.  (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)
Demonstrators held several anti-racism rallies last year in Edmonton as city launched public hearing into systemic racism within the police. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)

More than a dozen non-profit groups are slated to get a slice of grant money from the City of Edmonton to help them combat racism.

Nearly $215,000 is divvied up among 16 groups in the city's new anti-racism grant program, which council's community and public services committee is scheduled to discuss at a meeting Monday.

Grants range from just under $3,000 to $25,000 for projects involving arts, education, workshops and sessions.

Keren Tang, councillor for Ward Karhiio, said the program can bolster grassroots organizations already working on projects to curb discrimination based on race, religion and heritage.

"The goal here is really to enable and catalyze actions on the ground with community organizations to raise awareness about racism," Tang said in an interview Wednesday.

Some projects educate through storytelling, such as a podcast, "elevating the voices of those who are otherwise not often heard," Tang said.

The projects may also provide tools for the public to use to combat and address it, Tang suggested.

'We're angry'

One group, Sisters Dialogue Inc. is listed to receive $9,800 for a project called I Rage - Healing through Art and Prayer.

Wati Rahmat, founder of Sisters Dialogue, said the grant will go toward three sessions to help Muslim women work through the psychological effects of racist attacks in the past year.

"The prevailing emotion that Muslim women are feeling is rage," Rahmat said. "We're angry because If you look at it, it's our identity that's being attacked."

The sessions would include a healing circle with a therapist, prayer with an Indigenous elder and a workshop involving younger people, Rahmat said.

"It's so important for Muslim women to see that their needs are being looked after and that positive reverberation throughout the community is not quantifiable."

The Multicultural Family Resource Society is listed to receive nearly $25,000 for its project, Growing and building our communities together: Healing and working together to address racism."

Tang said that the society has helped newcomers adjust to new life in Edmonton.

"They've done a tonne of work in the realm of multicultural communities, refugee and settlement work."

Other groups listed to receive a grant include the Council of Canadians of African and Caribbean Heritage, Ribbon Rouge and the Black Bookshelf Project.

Latitude 53 Society of Artists is listed for a $10,000 grant for Chinatown anti-oppression workshops and projects.

Anne Stevenson, councillor for Ward O-day'min, supports the initiatives.

"Public art and what we're seeing in our public realm can be incredibly powerful in conveying the stories and meaning behind what experiencing racism can mean and how it can impact us as individuals."

The previous council initiated the grant program and approved the budget in 2019.

The city received 52 applications this year. Four members of the anti-racism advisory committee's funding subcommittee and one member of the public reviewed the applications before deciding on the 16.

Tang said the grants are a good start and ultimately, there's a bigger goal is to get to know people better.

"What I'm hoping to see is actually normalizing some of these conversations, creating spaces for people to have brave conversations about biases, about stereotypes or prejudice," she said.

Ban on hate symbols

The city also plans to ban symbols, signs and gestures considered hateful, which serve to discriminate or harass based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

This will be done by amending the city's public places bylaw, to include non-verbal forms of harassment.

The amendments are on the table, based in part on recommendations from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

They proposed municipalities address street harassment and other hate-motivated incidents through municipal bylaws.

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