The Welcoming and Inclusive Communities (WIC) initiative is a partnership between the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to create communities with positive reputations, where diversity adds to the social and economic vibrancy of the community and the quality of life enjoyed by all residents.
This Best Practice is a multi-faceted, collaborative, social change initiative that has enhanced the capacity of municipalities to build welcoming and inclusive communities working to address racism and discrimination.
The WIC initiative has been carried out in close collaboration with the Come Together Alberta (CTA) initiative, which is a partnership between the AUMA and the Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour to provide resources to improve outcomes for newcomers and engage marginalized populations in the workforce.
A 2014 evaluation report identified four key elements that have contributed to WIC's success: the shared commitment and capacity of the AUMA and AHRC to provide support through the allocation of human and financial resources; strong communication and trust between project partners and with municipalities and other stakeholders; a shared vision for the project, and an emphasis on collaboration and flexibility.
The launch of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD) inspired the collaborative work between the AHRC and the AUMA. Both organizations encourage municipalities in Alberta to consider the opportunity that CCMARD provides in creating impetus to address racism and discrimination in communities and joining forces across municipalities.
WIC complements the social dimension of the AUMA's municipal sustainability planning initiative.
WIC's goal is to build municipal capacity to combat racism and other forms of discrimination by: creating networking and learning opportunities for municipalities and community organizations; developing resources and tools to support municipal capacity to become more welcoming and inclusive, and providing support and information to encourage municipalities to join CCMARD and develop action plans to help them meet their commitments as signatories.
More specifically, WIC aims to: increase membership in CCMARD and WIC networks through promotion, capacity-building and outreach work; host provincial networking and capacity-building events; compile and create resources on specific topics, such as Aboriginal Peoples, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, accessibility issues and newcomers.
Both the AHRC and AUMA identified the importance of building welcoming and inclusive communities free from discrimination, where residents can participate in all aspects of the province's cultural, social, economic and political life.
Reducing racism and discrimination are not in themselves sufficient: Albertans need to feel welcomed and included and feel a sense of belonging in their communities.
To this end, the AHRC and AUMA developed the WIC initiative, which championed the work of the CCMARD. The WIC model supports the work of municipalities within their own communities, and their partnerships with other orders of government, and with local and national community and business groups.
Making a Difference
WIC has enhanced the capacity of municipalities to: identify issues relating to diversity and inclusion; engage in dialogue about inclusion; cultivate a commitment to inclusion from municipal leadership; develop programs for enhancing inclusion, and develop the capacity to create systemic change.
In addition, the number of CCMARD signatories in Alberta has risen and a further 50 municipalities are engaged as part of the WIC network.
Reducing racism and discrimination is complex work that does not deliver immediate results. It requires a systems perspective, which recognizes that racism and discrimination are manifestations of multisectoral and interconnected issues reflecting various inequities. Municipalities sometimes underestimated the time and effort required just to increase awareness.
There have also been challenges in developing resources to meet the needs of both large and small municipalities.
Lack of engagement from senior elected and administrative leadership, and lack of financial and human resources, are ongoing challenges in some municipalities.
Maintaining momentum over time, in the face of other priorities and issues, can challenge both municipalities and the network as a whole.
These challenges have been overcome by connecting the work with other initiatives, such as the social dimensions of municipal sustainability planning, creating partnerships between municipalities and with community and business groups, and embedding the work in more than one department of a municipality.
Vision for the Future
The WIC partnership has been successful in achieving its goals of increasing awareness and municipal capacity to combat racism and other forms of discrimination. A 2014 evaluation report identified needs and gaps, and provided the basis for planning on how best to capitalize on the momentum created by this initiative.
About the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Alberta Human Rights Commission
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association represents Alberta's 271 urban municipalities, as well as associate and affiliate members, to the provincial and federal governments and to other provincial and federal organizations.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission created by the Government of Alberta. The Commission has a two-fold mandate to foster equality and reduce discrimination.
Best Practice Contact
Director, Policy and Advocacy
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association
Director, Education and Engagement
Alberta Human Rights Commission
Business: 403-297-7437; Cell: 403-470-4214
300, 8616-51 Ave.
Edmonton, AB T6E 6E6