City of Vernon employees and residents could learn more about the cultures around them.
Administration has been asked to present a report on the feasibility of cultural competency training not only for those affiliated with city hall but also the public. The primary focus would be on indigenous cultures.
“Reconciliation calls for community action,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham, who called for the matter to be investigated.
“We hear that it’s history and we should move on but that’s not how it works.”
Coun. Catherine Lord supports the concept of cultural training, but it will depend on the cost and public interest.
“It’s something people can always use. Any training when dealing with people is good,” she said.
However, opposition to preparing a staff report on possible training came from Councillors Dalvir Nahal and Scott Anderson.
“We have more pressing issues — people are dying on the street from overdoses,” said Nahal.
“I’m a huge advocate for cultural diversity but we have so many other priorities.”
Anderson would not elaborate on why he voted against the motion.
“I will speak to it when the matter comes up again (staff presents report),” he said.
On Monday, council received a presentation from Partners In Action, which is working with local First Nations and service agencies on issues around truth and reconciliation.
“We will try to understand what we need to do in our community,” said Annette Sharkey, with Partners In Action.
Part of the process will focus on the impact colonization had on indigenous communities.
“We can’t move to reconciliation until we understand the move towards the truth,” said Sharkey.
Partners In Action are also looking at ways to increase cultural tolerance in Vernon.
Among the plans is establishing a communications protocol for high-profile incidents of racism or hate.
“We’ve worked with the RCMP and the hate crimes unit to develop the protocol,” said Sharkey.
The concept of a communications strategy is a result of a white supremacist website being promoted locally last fall.
“It wasn’t technically a hate crime but it warranted a community response that this isn’t OK,” said Sharkey.
Sharkey is working with city communications officer Tanya Laing Gahr on the strategy.