Penetanguishene is hoping that its adjacent North Simcoe municipalities will also choose to love their neighbours.
After a year of delays, town council passed a motion authorizing Mayor Doug Leroux to sign the official declaration from the Council of Inclusive Municipalities (CIM), a United Nations initiative to promote inclusion and diversity while maintaining a focus against racism and discrimination.
Coun. George Vadeboncoeur asked if Midland and the townships of Tay and Tiny had also been approached to join in the CIM, thereby creating a unified approach at the regional level.
“I did reach out to other municipalities who have joined the coalition, which don’t happen to be any of our direct neighbours,” said town clerk Stacey Cooper who prepared the report. “But I think that’s a great point, because the larger the group, the larger the impact will be.”
Coun. Jessica Klug had introduced the CIM to council’s attention last year.
“I know this was an item I brought to council some time ago,” said Klug, “and as noted in the report we’ve had some issues due to COVID getting through to the coalition.”
“I do agree with Coun. Vadeboncoeur,” said Klug. “Working with the other municipalities would be great in our area. But I’m happy to forge ahead, and see us added to this list of municipalities.”
The international Coalition of Cities against Racism was launched in March 2004 by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as part of the organization’s follow-up strategy to the world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance held in Durban in 2001.
A Canadian Commission for UNESCO was created in 2005, for which an advisory committee of municipal staff and elected officials was created in 2017. It underwent a name and brand change to the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities in 2019.
The international coalition aims to establish a network of cities interested in sharing their experiences in order to improve their policies against racism, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance. The network is comprised of six regional coalitions: Europe, Africa, Asia and Pacific, Arab States, Latin America and the Caribbean and Canada.
Along with the authorization, council’s passed motion also approved the draft terms of reference for a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Ad-hoc Committee, with staff being directed to recruit members “that shall represent the diversity of the town and broad cross-section of residents to ensure representation by community members with lived experience or service in agencies related to one or more” of eleven areas listed:
• Ethnocultural and linguistic diversity • Racialized communities or People of Colour • Francophone • New immigrants • Indigenous communities • LGBTQ2S+ individuals • Individuals with disabilities, including mental health disabilities • Seniors / older adults • Individuals living with low income / homeless • Post-secondary students / youth • Faith-based diversity
“I think we have great work to do,” said Klug, “and hopefully they (other North Simcoe municipalities) will join us as well as we move forward.”
Staff anticipated that with the appointment of the ad-hoc committee by the end of the year, a public consultation and work plan could proceed in early 2022.
Last year, members of Tay council had discussed joining the CIM after area residents had raised concerns.
The Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities guidebook, as part of the committee of the whole agenda, is available on the town of Penetanguishene website.
Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca