February 22nd, 2018

Lethbridge has role in Reconciliation

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 29, 2017.

September is always a busy month, and this year was no exception. Kids are back in school, clubs and sports are picking up, and there is a renewed busyness in people’s activities. This is the same year after year. Something new happened this September, though: the first ever Reconciliation Week, and the launch of the city-wide collaboration called Reconciliation Lethbridge.

Lethbridge is a multicultural city, part of a multicultural province and country. The land our city sits on has been the home of the Blackfoot people for thousands of years, and continues to be so today and into the future. Our city is also made up of MŽtis people, Inuit people, other Indigenous people, descendants from the original European settlers, descendants from more recent settlers, and people who have just arrived as immigrants or refugees. We may be a little city on the prairie, but we are exceptionally diverse.

So when it comes to implementing the Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, we in Lethbridge have a responsibility and a role. The residential school system left scars, not only on individuals and families, but on institutions, systems and cultures.

As a province, we quickly took action on two acts of reconciliation. Very soon after being elected, Premier Notley apologized on behalf of the Alberta Government for its past silence on the enduring harm done by the federal residential school system. Alberta also joined with every other province and territory and called on the federal government for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

There is, of course, more to be done. Reconciliation is a long road. The work done by Reconciliation Lethbridge, including their Reconciliation Implementation Plan, is immensely encouraging. In the plan, they identify specific needs on issues like education, language and culture, health, justice and more. The plan provides a roadmap of how we as individuals, families, organizations and governments can build Reconciliation into our actions.

You can find Reconciliation Lethbridge online at http://www.facebook.com

/ReconciliationLethbridge for more information or to read the plan.

It seems like September was a time for big new launches, as we also saw the opening of the new Coalbanks Elementary School. Across the province there were 53 school projects (new or modernizations) opened in September, creating about 21,600 new student spaces, and modernizing 15,000 more. The families of these, and all students across Alberta, have started the year off by saving a little money as we have eliminated transportation and material fees. A family with two children taking the bus will save $800 or more this year, making a big difference in the family budget. We are making life better and more affordable for Alberta families.

One more exciting opening in Lethbridge this month: the Family Centre has a new westside location! We know that investments in early childhood education are crucial, and that not just the child, but the whole family needs to be supported. Whether parents are returning to work or staying home, there is a lot of change and potential for stress in the early years. We can, as a community, come together and provide the support to make those years the best they can be.

The new westside Family Centre location was designed with these priorities in mind. Through a close partnership with School District 51, the new location is co-located with the new Coalbanks Elementary school. This provides a continuity of services for families with more than one child and helps with the eventual transition to kindergarten.

It establishes school as a community hub and site for family connection, helping children see the importance of education right from the start. The new location also has an outdoor play and exploration space, developed in consultation with Blackfoot Elders, to encourage children to explore the outdoors with all their senses. Just like the downtown Family Centre location, the new site is jam-packed with programs and activities. Check out the schedule for both locations at http://www.famcentre.ca.

If you want to reach me, please contact my office at 403-329-4644, Lethbridge.west@assembly.ab.ca, or stop by at 402 8th St S.

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