For Calgary to be inclusive, we need to guarantee equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalized. This is ongoing work that needs to be done and requires collaboration and meaningful consultation with multiple stakeholders. It is not a “nice to have” – it is a must have. Aside from being the right thing to do, there are several economic and social benefits to having an inclusive ward and city including:
- Improved employment outcomes: Inclusivity reduces likelihood of adversity related to discrimination. It gives residents an increased ability to seek and find employment, reduces under-employment, and contributes to the economy as a whole.
- Improved mental and physical health: Inclusive neighbourhoods counteract isolation and increase community participation. This increases physical activity and helps with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which can reduce burdens on the healthcare and social services systems.
- Inclusive growth: By increasing workforce participation and equitable wages the benefits of economic growth can be shared more evenly across Calgary and its communities.
- Increased workplace productivity: Diversity can be a source of creativity and innovation from a greater range of lived experiences. Inclusion creates a more positive workplace environment which improves productivity. Social inclusion can also lift profitability and help better serve multiple market segments.
So how do we accomplish this? It isn’t an easy fix, however here are 11 ways I think we could help make our neighbourhoods and city more inclusive:
- Improve the City’s engagement process including participatory platforms like public hearings, workshops and consultation sessions. Some areas of potential improvement include scheduling outside of typical workday hours, more convenient locations, online sessions, and communication in conjunction with community groups to reach more residents. This will ensure new, diverse, and different voices from underrepresented groups can be heard.
- Deliver better snow clearing: I’ve spoken to a number of folks who are passionate advocates for accessibility, as well as some Ward 11 residents with mobility issues. When asked what is one thing council could do to make an immediate impact on Calgary’s accessibility, the answer has consistently been better snow clearing, especially at transit stops and at intersections. After all, you can’t have inclusivity without accessibility.
- Initiate an accessibility audit of all City of Calgary public buildings, such as recreation centres and libraries, and community association buildings. Identify what would be required to ensure these buildings are physically accessible. Explore public/private partnerships to support the funding to update the facilities.
- Develop infrastructure that will ensure that all Calgary residents have access to digital tools like the internet. As more and more of the City’s services and information are delivered through digital channels, a lack of access to tools and technology can be significant barriers. It is critical that Calgarians have reasonable and equal access to the information and services they need in their day-to-day lives.
- Continue support for the City’s Anti-Racism Action Committee so that we can identify and specifically address areas of systemic racism within the City.
- Increase funding and resources to the Indigenous Relations office at the City to help their strategies move forward in a more efficient and impactful way.
- Work with City committees and task forces to create action plans to ensure boards and committees are inclusive and reflect the diversity of Calgary’s population as a whole.
- Provide multilingual options for City communication materials both print and digital.
- Through City partners like the library, ensure there is strong, accessible programming to support low income, immigrant and marginalized Calgarians with literacy, financial literacy, language development, job-training and employment skills. This will increase workforce participation, reduce isolation and encourage economic development.
- Provide multiple safe and efficient transportation options in all communities whether it is by car, bike, transit, mobility device or by foot. Identify underserved areas of the city and create a framework for addressing it.
- Ensure the city has an age-in-place strategy (click to read my ideas) to address the housing needs of our aging population. Related, work with community groups to develop and implement programs meant to prevent social isolation for seniors and other at risk residents.
Ward 11 and Calgary as a whole are made up of many diverse communities and groups. Identifying and removing barriers to participation in city services, city design, and civic engagement is critical. We need to create equitable access to opportunities and benefits to everyone who lives and works in Calgary (and visitors too!). Diversity and inclusion are a catalyst for economic development and economic health. Policies and programs that promote inclusion in education, housing, economic development, city services, and fiscal policy can lead to long-term success for residents and our entire city. More importantly, inclusion increases the quality of life, and mental and physical health for all Calgarians, and helps us love where we live. It will take time to get Calgary where we need to be in terms of inclusion, however with a comprehensive strategy, and measurable tactics and goals, we can move forward in a meaningful way.