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November 20, 2017
November 1, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Wednesday, November 1, 2017

City Hall fears

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Halloween tends to bring with it stories of people being racist. That usually means some idiots dressing up in blackface, as Indigenous caricatures, and various other terrible decisions. 

At the University of Alberta, the racism was a little more direct this week.

Yup. Some local racist decided to carve up a pumpkin, put it into a feather headdress and drop it off at the U of A’s Faculty of Native Studies.

You will see brave white people on the Internet asking if it’s really racist or just some kind of feathered jack o’ lantern. Yes. Yes, it’s racist. And if you are defending it in any way, even in these “I’m just asking the question” kind of ways, your white fragility is on full display. 

And just when those fragile white souls were waking up for another day of enjoying a world that’s never really oppressed them, someone else got into the spirit of racism on campus and delivered another racist message. Again, the Faculty of Native Studies is involved here, so any “devil’s advocate” defences are really running out of runway now. (Or it was the office of East Asian Studies. So, still racist.)

I’ve seen a lot of people calling this out on social media too, which is heartening. The university is investigating to see if it can find the people responsible. If you know something about people doing this kind of stuff, or this stuff specifically, make sure they know they’re racists. We need to make our fellow white people, and Settlers, know this isn’t acceptable and we need to stop them when we see this stuff happening.

The Faculty of Native Studies is behind a fantastic online course you can take – for free – to learn more about Indigineous history, culture and modern issues.


City hall security

If you happen to attend a meeting of Edmonton’s city council or its committees, expect to be thoroughly screened at a security checkpoint. (Even as they start to backtrack on some of the changes.)

The reason for new security measures at city hall? The world’s a scary place. Maybe some stuff might happen. Also, cab drivers.

Back in the spring I had a discussion about the security changes (then, still not implemented) and I think the same thing I thought then about the cabbie protest being a reason cited for the security changes. That’s not a good look for the City (comes about 9:30 in the below podcast). A room full of people of colour is not a reason to implement full-scale security changes. 

As the host of that podcast, Troy Pavlek, detailed in another article, this decision has the potential to keep people away from city hall for meetings. Public participation in most meetings is already minimal (a topic for a whole other day). 

One of the reasons that will be held up for the changes is that City staff have their backs to the audience in current meeting rooms. I absolutely believe it could be uncomfortable, or even unsafe, to have your back to a room of people, especially if some of them are upset or angry. They still have their backs to the room though, so we didn’t actually solve that problem. 

Perhaps a redesign of the meeting rooms and council chambers would make more sense than what really amounts to security theatre. There wasn’t a problem with Edmonton’s City Hall, or the people showing up to council meetings before, there likely won’t be in the future, so all we’ve done is give the impression there’s something, or some people, to fear.


Education news

Edmonton’s Public and Catholic school boards have more students learning English than ever before. There are now staff members in each school board helping schools and teachers to work with the students who are learning one of our local languages along with their other studies. 

Edmonton’s big three post-secondary schools get all the attention, but NorQuest has just opened a really fantastic expansion of their campus downtown. With 60% of the school’s students being born outside of Canada, this is also a fantastic increase in the educational opportunities of newcomers to our city.


Work to do

CBC Edmonton has been on top of the story of the Edmonton Institution’s “dystopian system of fear, harassment and bullying” that is a work environment for women. The newsroom is reporting multiple employees have been suspended while another internal review is conducted, as well as a criminal investigation.

“…the suspensions are linked to allegations of sexual assault, assault, harassment and employee misconduct.” 

I recommend reading the full stories from CBC because they’ve been digging on this story for a year, and the allegations show a workplace that is not safe for women. At work or even after some female employees leave. 

Just outside of the city, Morinville is building its first shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence. 

While we are yet to see more public stories from Edmonton’s arts and creative industries, at least one theatre director says the wider “me too” campaign and one local performer’s own admissions will allow women to feel more comfortable reporting sexual harassment and assaults. The real challenge, of course, is if those reports will be acted upon. Hopefully the publicity we’re seeing right now helps spur those actions when needed. 

For the next two weeks, you can donate feminine hygiene products at a variety of locations around Edmonton to help make sure women who are homeless have some of the basic necessities they need

Edmonton’s Women’s March will return on the anniversary of this year’s worldwide event. 


Around the city

Edmonton’s world-class waste management is taking a hit, as all our compost is being shipped to the dump right now. The roof of the compost facility is in danger of collapsing, so there’s not a safe place to operate that program currently. Councillors are asking City staff how the building could have become unsafe so quickly, without warning

The Alberta government caved into big business interests (or, at least our airlines and NHL teams) and will not ditch Daylight Saving Time. You’ll change your clocks this weekend and every spring and fall. 

Christmas isn’t canceled downtown, it’s just being restructured

via GIPHY

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