SL gatherings seek to collaborate on responses to hate

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Every other Tuesday, ‘Responding to Hate, Racism and Discrimination Slave Lake and Area’ will be held from Sept. 14 to Nov. 9 online.

The poster describes it as “a series of gatherings to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders from in and around Slave Lake with a goal to building stronger relations and strengthening our collective response to hate, racism and discrimination in our community.”

“I think anything like that is great for our community,” says Town of Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman. “I’m interested to see what comes of it. Renée and I have committed to teaming up once it’s finished.”

The goal of this partnership will be to figure out how town council plays a role, he adds.

“I’ve been working with Renée for over two years, and this is province-wide,” says Barb Courtorielle, executive director at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. “It’s more for education and to bring awareness, not to finger-point or anything.”

The Renée both are referencing is Renée Vargeois, executive director of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights.

“It’s a series of conversations,” says Vargeois. The goal is to “build relationship, build strategies, and build forward together,” she adds. “To work together to respond and act on racism and discrimination.”

Lisa Vance is one of four facilitators in Slave Lake.

Vance came to Slave Lake when she was 17. She studied international development and has worked oversees. During COVID, she moved back to Slave Lake.

Vance has an “interest in issues around inequality,” she says.

Vargeois will also be at the meetings. Her goal is to “keep it moving forward in a good way.”

“It’s open to anyone who would like to attend who thinks it would be relevant to them,” says Vance.

The poster invites people working “at the grassroots, at the frontline, in agencies, emergency response, law enforcement, academics, legal field, public sector, and organizations.”

“Ideally, people will come to all five,” says Vargeois. At the pilot gatherings in St. Paul, some only made it to three.

The gatherings lay out the history of racism in Alberta and current examples, says Vance. “We’re supposed to be adding some local history to it,” she adds.

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