We talked a lot about Catholic schools this week, (a lot!) so let’s take a look at the first meeting of the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) for balance and contrast.
The EPSB had its first meeting of the new four-year term, mixing in a few important topics with administrative items that come with the first agenda. The board picked up right where it left off before the election, pushing for more protections of LGBTQ2S+ students, particularly around privacy when students take part in gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar clubs.
This was the same motion some board members wanted to discuss at the last meeting before the election, but it didn’t have enough support to be debated without notice. The school board’s views on this will be supported by new legislation from the NDP government, which plans to strengthen the language and laws around GSAs and LGBTQ2S+ students.
The EPSB also began work to figure out how it could re-name schools. This has become an issue in the last year or so, as it relates to people we likely wouldn’t honour with such commemoration today. You know, because racism. (This policy will also be helpful when schools want to change their name for any reason.)
Speaking of publicly praising our past heroes/villains, the debate was in focus at an event at the University of Alberta this week.
The debate is obviously the very least we can do as part of reconciliation efforts with our Indigenous communities, and others harmed by those we celebrate with monuments, schools, parks and even neighbourhoods in their name.
While the school board deals with this policy, the City will also need to confront this question in the new term. Frank Oliver has become the central figure in the Edmonton discussion, but there will be others whose pasts we need to square with our current morals, values and laws.
Also this week, the Alberta government announced that Indigenous history and perspective will become a larger part of all education curriculum in our schools. There will be lesson plans rolled out in the next year for all grades through elementary, junior and high schools. The studies will be mixed into many different subjects, including language arts, social studies, fine arts and science.
More details from Census 2016 this week, looking at our immigration and ethnocultural diversity. Here in Alberta, we’re attracting more immigrants than ever. And Edmonton continues to have a growing number of Indigenous neighbours.
Cdns like to tell WOC to speak our truth — if it doesn’t offend anyone or challenge systems. Speak up @TheMirandaJimmy, we’re listening
— Reakash Walters (@Reakash) October 26, 2017
There was also a lot of social media chatter this week – but I don’t think any actual stories – on an open letter from one candidate in Ward 5 to the new councillor. From the reaction of Edmonton’s mostly white media, you’d believe this was sour grapes at its most bitter. The initial social media response was to ask how someone could ever write something like this, dismiss it as poor taste and just move on already.
Watching the reaction slowly come in from more people of colour, women, and Indigenous peoples, it’s clear this letter requires us to step back and ask some of the questions it raises.
— mary pinkoski (@onelastpoem) October 26, 2017
The letter comes from Miranda Jimmy, an Indigenous woman who ran in Ward 5 and placed in the top few candidates in a very strong race.
Edmonton’s obviously got problems with privilege, and that extends to our leaders (it’s not solely an Edmonton problem, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be confronting it). Our female representation locally is also lacking, which saw the formation of an entire campaign to get more women to run for office. We also have a need to remove corporate and union donations from our municipal politics to eliminate class privilege, and a multitude of conflicts of interest, real and perceived. These are among the issues that Jimmy’s letter forces us to confront.
The open letter received a lot of insta-condemnation, but there are too many smart people challenging that reaction for me to think that first response is the correct end of the discussion.
I’m disappointed to see people dismiss her valid points. I think you’re better than that, Edmonton. At least, I hope you are.
— Robin 🚲 Mazumder (@RobinMazumder) October 26, 2017
When I first saw the tweets flying and read the letter, I also had an initial reaction of “Yeah, that’s not how you do things…” In hindsight, I’m glad that I felt like it was possible the speed of my own condemnation came from privilege and status quo. I don’t mention that now to come off superior to anyone else, or to hedge my bets on how this discussion ends up turning out, but to share that we all have a lot of instant reactions that are rooted in our privilege and behaviours. I think this is one of those times Edmonton’s privilege is on full display.
Instead of trying to shut Jimmy up because we don’t like the way she phrased her points, or we think someone running for office should only be gracious in defeat, or we don’t like that she uses a specific candidate as her example, we should reflect on why she would be asking these questions publicly. Coming off an election where Edmonton’s city council fails to reflect the people it represents, we need to talk about privilege, political connections, money in politics, racism and sexism (and intersectionality of those).
There’s a lot for us to talk about here, Edmonton, and it doesn’t have anything to do with sour grapes.
It’s been a longtime coming, but we have our first provincial government building named for an Indigenous women. Human rights activist Muriel Stanley Venne is receiving the honour. Stanley Venne was one of the first members of Alberta’s Human Rights Commission, founded the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and continues to be an important voice for Indigenous women in our province.
There’s a new issue of Eighteen Bridges out, and this essay from Rollie Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon) about time in Edmonton is worth spending a few minutes reading, enjoying and pondering.
Take Back The Night is this Friday night, with a program running 5 – 9 p.m. and the march happening at 6:30 p.m. in the 124 Street area west of downtown. As the quote above alludes to, the #metoo campaign isn’t enough to stop the systemic forces that hurt women and events like this continue to be important. (The earlier-mentioned Muriel Stanley Venne will be one of the speakers at this event.)
Sessional instructors at MacEwan University won themselves more of a voice. After a special meeting of the faculty association, the sessional teachers will be able to have a larger presence on the association’s board and they’ll be able to vote after the school year. The latter became an issue when the faculty association held a meeting, and voted on pay scales, when most sessional teachers couldn’t take part.
Even the biggest mall of them all, West Edmonton Mall (WEM), is thinking about small and local retail. The new “Retail As A Service” (RAAS) spots being tested out at WEM follow on Londonderry Mall adding an entire wing of Alberta retail. We have a lot of talk about oil and energy jobs in Alberta, but the retail industry is undergoing a massive shift of its own.
If Edmonton is building the largest sports dome in Canada we obviously need to brand it the “Dome District”.
Edmonton’s music history is getting a little bit of a revival, with Wikipedia editors making sure our scene’s places and faces aren’t forgotten by the Internet.
It’s been a week of heavy topics, important, of course, but weighing on us nonetheless. Here are a few stories to enjoy over the weekend that should bring some joy to our cold, broken souls.
An Edmontonian’s long journey tracking down the rookie cards of every professional Indigenous hockey player has resulted in success. What a collection!
The Seniors Innovation Fund is bringing people together in south Edmonton.
And… you may have seen pictures on social media. You may have felt a strange presence zipping by you. You may have wondered if there really is a panda riding a Segway around Edmonton. Some of your questions will be answered here.
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