Members of Edmonton's black community demanded a voice at the table Monday, saying any anti-racism effort should be written in partnership with them.
"Let's start listening to each other rather than undermining each other," said Ahmed Abdulkadir, with the Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta.
"We want to be the driving force. The community wants to be the driving force," said Abdulkadir, after addressing council's community services committee. He cited examples of hate being directed at youth from his community and other members enduring racial slurs. One young woman had her hijab pulled off while getting on a bus, he said.
"We're experiencing this. It's not PR for us, it's our life."
In November, city council asked city officials to develop a framework to counter racism in Edmonton.
Six months later, Monday's report to the community services committee was simply a list of the initiatives Edmonton is already doing, such as existing human resource outreach efforts to ensure diverse communities know about city employment opportunities.
Community leaders seemed to assume if they hadn't been consulted during the last six months, that meant decisions were being made without them.
Still planning how to plan
Later, deputy city manager Rob Smyth said staff actually haven't started the work yet. The city is still in the process of planing how to plan the framework. Communities will then be consulted before administration reports back to council on their progress in early 2018.
"It's the complexity of the issue," Smyth said. "At the end of the day, we don't want to rush it."
Five community leaders who spoke Monday said they just don't want another initiative developed by "corporate Edmonton" and forgotten.
Edmonton should be just one partner, said Jean Walrond, with the Interracial Alliance of Edmonton and Area. She called racism a "social disease that plagues our beautiful city."
If it's a Somali victim, everybody is a victim because that's an Edmonton child. If it's an aboriginal victim, everybody is a victim, Abdulkadir said. Right now, he added, "there's no empathy ... It's happening to them, it's isolated."
Discrimination at the city
In their report to council, city officials also said 11 per cent of city employees say they've felt discrimination in the workplace, especially from their own co-workers and supervisors. But discrimination specifically against First Nations people is down 30 per cent, possibly because of mandatory training and empathy workshops.
The committee asked officials to also look at "name-blind" recruiting techniques, currently piloted by the federal government. Using this technique, human resource officials strip identifying information from resumes before they are short-listed, so subconscious racial biases can't influence the outcome.
Councillors also asked staff to investigate an "access without fear" initiative – where city officials and police make sure they don't ask people about their immigration status unnecessarily.
This ensures those with precarious status or those vulnerable to human trafficking aren't afraid to seek help. A report on that possibility is due back in August.