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EDITORIAL: Embracing diversity and inclusion makes for a stronger community

2020 has been a time of challenging conversations, and few topics have been as controversial to unpack as diversity.

The year 2020 has been a time of challenging conversations, and few topics have been as controversial to unpack as diversity.

Momentous events including the Black Lives Matter walk in June and Cochrane’s inaugural Pride Week are serving to encourage us to unpack and embrace empathy, while pushing for equality and equity for all.

What has started as a grassroots movement is growing strong and has begun to take root in places of power.

This is no better illustrated than by the proposed inclusion statement that is currently being pursued in the Town of Cochrane.

Talking about ideas such as inclusion, diversity, privilege, racism and other systemic issues can be challenging because they can be intangible topics if one has never felt marginalized.

This makes proposals like the Town's inclusion statement necessary when creating a foundation for lasting,
equitable change.

What is key to remember is that movements like this are about calling people into the conversation.

Councillor Marni Fedeyko, who is proposing the creation of an inclusivity statement, has said creating an inclusivity statement needs to be a priority in Cochrane because nothing is more important than creating a community for everyone.

“I think Cochrane has the most amazing hearts. It is one the best communities I have ever lived in ... But, it doesn’t mean everybody necessarily feels that or we can’t do better," she said. “We’ve come a long way— This is just another step.”

When talking about challenging topics like inclusion the conversation needs to be rooted in empathy. The focus is not on making people feel bad because they may have not known about the issues marginalized people have faced. Instead, the goal is to embrace education and understanding to help unify the rich, diverse cultures that exist within our town.

These conversations are about bringing us together, not tearing us apart.

All of us can take steps to ensure everyone feels welcome in our community.

“Real change comes from discussions. It comes from collaborations. It comes from absolutely understanding somebody else’s point of view,” Fedeyko said. “I don’t expect everybody in Cochrane to embrace this. I don’t expect everybody to suddenly come together— I’m not expecting people to necessarily support it, but I do want people to accept that everybody is welcome here.”

It can be challenging unpacking the prejudice permeating Canadian culture, because it is not a conversation most people are used to having. But, we can work together to educate ourselves and embrace deep and meaningful change that will ripple out across generations.

It is an exhilarating time— We as a community have the possibility to embrace inclusion and diversity by becoming more active in ensuring all community members feel safe, comfortable and welcome in their community.

Family therapist, workshop facilitator, lecturer and advisor David Irving puts it best, “Every single person has something to offer this community, and the more diverse it is, the healthier it is— When we give, in our life, it stimulates a part of the brain that gives you a high, that gives you a sense of peace and wellbeing."

This is the philosophy that must guide the proposed inclusivity statement if the Town chooses to create such a document.