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May 26, 2022
September 6, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Answers aren't easy

Written by Jeff Samsonow


Since we’re all coming back from summer brain, let’s start in a place we’ve recently been just to ease back into things. Let’s talk about racism!

Feels like we’re doing that a lot this summer

In the wake of a rally at the Alberta Legislature that has really begun the wider discussion about Frank Oliver’s place in Edmonton history, we’re starting to see the local media reactions and follow-ups to the story. Some of them are thoughtful, incorporating plenty of insight from Indigenous peoples, like the Papaschase, who lost land to Oliver’s racist plots.

Some of them are, well… less thoughtful? Some of them are full of “bothsideism” where the voice of those asking for Oliver’s place in Edmonton history to be reconsidered is met with equal coverage of those who don’t think we should change a thing. Other articles offer up what should be done, often in ways that feel comfortable to settlers or mimics something we’ve done previously when challenged on racism.

Obviously, as a white settler I’m the last one to be able to properly judge Oliver’s aggressions against Indigenous people and immigrants (mostly people of colour). That said, I know that in order to have a proper discussion about this, just asking to slap up a second plaque that acknowledges we named a bunch of stuff in honour of a racist and be done with it is probably not respectful of those making the request. We also can’t just do what we did at Grandin Station and tell BIPOC Edmontonians that’s good enough. They tell us what’s good enough.

We settlers are going to need to do more than just listen, we’re going to have to really hear what’s being talked about. We can’t know what the answer is yet because we haven’t allowed those with the grievances to really be heard. (Much like, say, the request for Edmonton’s football team to change its name, this is not a new point of contention and it often goes unheard in our white city.)

Frank Oliver, namesake of the neighbourhood. image: Wikipedia

I hope that, if you’re a settler like me, you will keep an open ear to what our Indigenous neighbours are saying. We’ve honoured a man who hurt a lot of people, and it’s probably not good enough to add a plaque in the corner of a park to appease our white fragility.

The idea of publicly acknowledging our racist past is a good one though. The call to be accountable to Edmonton’s history with the KKK is such an example. That group’s welcomed presence in our city should be publicly noted.

But we shouldn’t be naming neighbourhoods and schools for the KKK.

Somehow, that equivalence is being lost in the local debate around Frank Oliver. It’s almost like he’s getting a pass because we already went to the trouble of naming things for him. We re-name our old arena every decade or so, and nobody seems too upset about that history being lost.

I wonder, too, if Oliver gets a bit more of a free ride because he launched Edmonton’s first newspaper and that’s an added layer of fragility for journalists to confront.

So, just like we settlers have to keep our ears open to what’s being asked of us, let’s keep our eyes on how the debate is being covered and framed by Edmonton media. The platforms are too large, too important, to be ignored. The discussion in the pages and broadcasts is going to influence many, including those who ultimately make the decisions around public praise, naming and historical monuments. The more settler voices dominate the debate, the more likely they decide how we deal with Oliver’s history. (And the other local heroes from our past that are less than ideal people in our modern views.)

Right now, listening to Indigenous voices and Edmontonians of colour, the answer is to either remove Oliver’s name from those places bestowed upon him by past Edmontonians or it’s to determine with the Papaschase and BIPOC groups what form of reconciliation they’d prefer. If a media organization is offering up their own answer already, they aren’t listening.

Back to school

Edmonton school zones are 30 km/h. photo: City of Edmonton

School is back! (Like you didn’t know that already.) We had a few more back to school stories in our Headlines on Friday too, including links about all the new schools opening this year.

Among the interesting stories this week is the added 30 km/h speed zones around junior highs. That’s on top of the slower speed limits around elementary schools during the day. This could also soon extend to playgrounds, every day of the week.

You know, I’ve got to think that it would be easier to drive 30 km/h in all neighbourhoods all the time instead of remembering school zones are Monday to Friday during certain hours and playgrounds are another set of hours. We are really making this needlessly complicated and, of course, more dangerous on a lot of roads. We need some sort of City department dedicated to traffic safety that can champion these causes like they do in other cities.

Consolidated schools could be the thing to help keep more families in mature neighbourhoods.

With university also back in session, this story about multi-generational living is a good reminder that Edmonton’s still got plenty to explore in the ways we live and the buildings we create.

Around the city

The family of Amber Tuccaro is increasing the amount of money for a reward for information that helps solve her homicide. The family is in Edmonton to speak with representatives of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls this week and hopes that extra attention on case will bring about a conclusion. Edmonton’s official MMIW hearing is this fall, but families who may go on the record, and others from affected communities, are speaking with officials this week ahead of that.

A drop-in workshop that focused on LGBTQ relationships is back for its second year. The course runs Tuesday nights for five weeks (with four left).

It’s not a new question, but with the death of an Edmonton fighter being investigated, it’s time for more people to ask why Alberta doesn’t have a combative sports commission.

e-Bikes should be allowed in the river valley for anyone who uses them for better mobility and outdoor exercise.

Edmonton hosted the The 10th Wong Convention. It’s a regular gathering of Chinese-Canadians with the surname Wong.

Tipping is back at Cafe Linnea. That’s kind of too bad. More restaurants should pay their staff better wages and not force customers to supplement their income. (That’s not a criticism of Cafe Linnea, it’s more of a commentary on our system of tipping instead of paying people living wages.)

Public engagement

Edmonton City Hall. photo: Dean Smith (Creative Commons)

On Wednesday, the Urban Planning Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. Topics include an update on building more (types of) infill in our mature neighbourhoods, improving Edmonton Transit for visitors to our city, and an update on autonomous vehicles. The meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room.

Ahead of its public hearing at city council next week, there’s an open house Wednesday night for a new transit-oriented development in Holyrood Gardens. The open house is 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the South East Edmonton Seniors Association.

On Thursday, the Community and Public Services Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. Topics include an update on opioid overdoses and safe injection sites, the Youth Council’s annual report, doming sports fields, dealing with problem properties, playground speed limits and public urination.  The meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room.

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