Edmonton groups to get $1.2M to combat racism, promote safer city

Five Edmonton groups are set to get a piece of a $1.174 million fund to work on projects aimed at curbing racism and creating a safer city. 

City council’s community and public services committee agreed to the anti-racism community safety fund at a meeting Tuesday. Council as a whole will be asked to approve the grants later this month. 

Coun. Keren Tang said the initiative gives non-profit organizations tools to help address race-based discrimination. 

“This pillar of work is to say, ‘how can we empower racialized communities in addressing community safety and well-being issues on the ground through community work?'” 

Under the fund, the Canadian Mental Health Association Edmonton region, the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers are getting $250,000 each. 

The Alberta Workers Association is receiving $246,000 for a project to help address mental health and social issues for people with no immigration status. 

“The project aims to raise awareness in Edmonton on the realities faced by undocumented families and fight negative stereotypes that contribute to their fear and anxiety,” the city report says.

The CMHA plans to use the grant to coach distress line responders on supporting people calling in crisis who are suffering from race-based hate and abuse. 

Giri Puligandla, executive director of the Edmonton region of the CMHA, said the fund is helping the city move ahead. 

“This is all important, ground-breaking and innovative work,” Puligandla told the committee Tuesday. “Work that is critical to make the city more comfortable and supportive for all of us.” 

The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers will develop programs for LGBTQ+ newcomers who face homophobia and transphobia, which raises concerns for their safety, the report says. 

Building cultural bridges

The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is receiving $178,000 to work with Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) groups on innovative ways to bring people together. 

Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, executive director of the EFCL, said eight leagues are interested in creating programs using arts, theatre and music, to build relationships among cultures.

“We hope to bring neighbours together to share these experiences with people who may be new to the community league structure,” she said.

Last year, the EFCL helped facilitate a pilot called safe walk for Muslim women.

Inspired by that, the South Clareview Community League created a weekly program for Muslim women and their children to share cultural practices. 

Progress is slow

The grants fall under the city’s anti-racism strategy — one of the first initiatives council agreed to do when it got elected in Oct. 2021.

The push to create a strategy came after a string of attacks on Muslim women and a public hearing into policing, spurred by anti-racism protests around North America.

Dunia Nur, founder and president of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council, had been lobbying the city for a strategy for a few years.

She said the current council and mayor are showing promise that things are moving forward.

“I believe there are people that are willing and genuinely do care,” she said. “We can do better. Progress is slow.” 

The $1.174 million anti-racism community safety fund is separate from the city’s anti-racism grants, which began in 2021 and give smaller amounts — between $3,000 – $25,000 — to community groups. 

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