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June 2021 Mayor's Column

​This past Monday was a busy and eventful day with several important events of note, including the Métis flag and Pride flag raisings as well as a vigil held by the Lethbridge Muslim Association to honour the family recently killed in London, Ont.

I was honoured to attend each event and continue working on positive dialogue and relationships in our community and region.

The raising of the Métis flag is a significant reminder of the many and diverse contributions that Métis peoples have made and continue to make in our community. By celebrating these contributions in Lethbridge and elsewhere, we create space for partnership and reconciliation in our communities.

As we've witnessed over the past few weeks, dialogue and coming together is more important than ever. The Kamloops tragedy has shown just how important holding space and being open to hearing the truth is an integral piece of reconciliation and one we must continue to support. As an organization, we have sought to strengthen relationships with other Indigenous community partners and we look forward to building on our relationship with the Lethbridge Métis Council and its citizens.

Indigenous Peoples Day is coming up on Monday and we will again gather to honour partnerships with our neighbours. Further work is also being fast-tracked to begin this year.

At our meeting this week, City Council voted unanimously to advance the Indigenous Place-making Strategy a year ahead of its originally-scheduled start to now begin work in 2021. Council had previously approved this Strategy – that includes a review and audit of the public spaces, markers and language used by the City – as part of the 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The City of Lethbridge is responsible for the public spaces in our community, such as City-owned parks, neighbourhoods and facilities, certain historical markers, as well as the naming of public infrastructure and spaces.

Thank you to Councillor Jeff Coffman for bringing this forward. As he stated: "Residents are looking to their local governments for change. Undertaking an audit of our public spaces, done through the lenses of Truth and Reconciliation and Inclusion, would allow our community to have a conversation around place-making and possibly determine outcomes where public spaces can further define us as a community."

This represents an opportunity to approach Reconciliation from a different perspective and one that will reach new audiences and meaningfully contribute to the City's social, economic and environmental fabric. While significant progress has been made in the area of reconciliation, there are very few places in which Blackfoot culture, language or history, or that of other Indigenous peoples, are meaningfully reflected.

As June is Pride Month and this week is Pride Week, I also attend the flag raising on Monday for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The importance of Pride in Lethbridge cannot be understated. We need to make sure that we are accepting and loving people for who they are.

Another more somber event was held Monday night, as the Lethbridge Muslim Association held a vigil, with about 100 people present, to honour a family recently killed in London, Ont. This vigil was a way to provide support for their community and the family in Ontario and to let them know we feel their loss and their hearts and prayers go out to them. I recognize that Islamophobia is real – and it has no place in the community. It is not enough to offer words of support. We need to take action. It is very important to get comfortable with the uncomfortable conversations and start calling out racism when we see it happen.

Another topic of major significance was discussed at the June 1 Council meeting, where Council voted unanimously to approve their support towards a proposed Alberta Coal Restriction Policy. Council has submitted letters to the Alberta Minister of Environment and to the Coal Policy Committee expressing concerns about the possible negative impacts coal mining could have on our city, water resources, agriculture and the landscapes our citizens access now and for future generations.

Switching gears now, looking ahead on the calendar – July 1, Canada Day is coming soon. Residents and visitors are asked to once again take a different approach to activities happening around Lethbridge to celebrate our nation's birthday.

Due to the unprecedented affect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our community and the public health orders that are still in effect, there will be no fireworks or public events provided by the City of Lethbridge at Henderson Park or Galt Gardens again this year. Events of this magnitude take months of preparation so given the pandemic, we encourage people to celebrate in their own way. The City's Canada Day Committee has organized a range of COVID safe events for people to enjoy in their own backyards or around the City.

The best way to stay up-to-date with everything happening for Canada Day is to download the free mobile app at: http://my.yapp.us/TKAJ32. More information can also be found online at www.lethbridge.ca/CanadaDay.

As we go through Stage 2 of re-opening from the COVID-19 pandemic and look ahead to Stage 3 of the Alberta Government's plan, it is as important as ever for vaccination efforts to continue.

It is encouraging this week to see our lowest active local case numbers since October, but if you have not booked your first vaccine dose yet, please do so. Data shows vaccines are safe and very effective at reducing transmission, severe illness, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19. In order to properly support local businesses and re-opening efforts, we all have to be as safe as possible.

Stay tuned next Tuesday for an exciting announcement as we look to bridge our past with an exciting future for the City of Lethbridge.