The Town of Strathmore and Siksika Nation are continuing their efforts for shared understanding and collaboration among residents of the two communities to combat racism.
Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Siksika Nation Councillor Rueben Breaker provided an update of the work the two communities are leading together, via a Facebook Live address on Feb. 25.
Representatives from each community started working together in 2019 to ensure First Nations people visiting and living in Strathmore have positive experiences in town, said Fule.
“It’s all about creating a safer and more welcoming community,” he said.
This is being done because First Nations people have experienced racism in Strathmore.
“I’ve heard some quite serious and harrowing stories from people, as far as things yelled at people (and) comments made to them,” said Fule, adding the problem needs to be addressed. “We have to be willing to own it and admit that there could be a problem. This should not be happening in our community.”
The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined these efforts, but now the initiative is being restarted.
“Now we’re back at the table and we’re going to go hard at this, because racism is not going away,” said Breaker.
The group is generating ideas to present to Golden Hills School Division (GHSD) and Christ the Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools to make the education lives and experiences of Siksika students “more smooth and more meaningful,” said Fule.
Another focus of the initiative is policing. This follows Strathmore RCMP together with representatives from Strathmore and Siksika Nation signing a shared letter of understanding in October 2020 to develop more trust between them.
“It was perfect timing, because it’s no secret that the topic of systemic racism within the RCMP is prevalent all over Canada,” said Breaker. “We want to make sure that even at the law enforcement level, that our people are treated fairly and just have that basic understanding.”
Also being considered is how to improve affordable housing, social services and employment for First Nations people in town, said Fule.
But these efforts are not focused on Strathmore alone, said Breaker. Strathmore and area sports teams visiting Siksika Nation to play should be welcomed there too, he said.
To reach some of these goals, representatives from Strathmore and Siksika Nation are considering forming a formal anti-racism committee. To support this, town administration is looking to create terms of reference to follow, said Fule.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times