June 14th, 2024

SPC gets look at Civic Culture Plan

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on May 24, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The Governance Standing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council on Thursday got a look at the City’s 2024 Civic Culture Plan.

The SPC consists of councillors Belinda Crowson, Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, Rajko Dodic and John Middleton-Hope.

According to a presentation presented and submitted by Recreation and Culture general manager Robin Harper, the plan “is a strategic initiative designed to prioritize the role of culture in advancing Lethbridge as an intercultural hub, fostering inclusivity, and celebrating diversity. The plan envisions a community where every resident feels welcomed and valued, contributing to the collective narratives that define Lethbridge’s identity. Arts and cultural heritage act as catalysts for building connections and nurturing a sense of belonging.”

Work on the plan started in July, 2021. It is informed by statistical data, asset mapping, an analysis of existing City plans, policies and reports and was created through community engagement that occurred from November, 2021 to August, 2022.

It had input from 400 Lethbridge residents, 67 community and cultural organizations as well as from members of city council and City administration.

“The plan emphasizes embracing and celebrating cultural diversity and vibrancy, expressed through festivals, interactive placemaking, public art, multicultural events, and inclusive spaces,” says Harper’s report.

Implementation is to be done over a 10-year period in three phases, each with its own strategies that “ensure a methodical and evaluated implementation of initiatives,” says the report noting that the speed of implementation will be determined by direction from council and available resources.

The plan notes that Lethbridge has the highest proportion of transgender and non-binary people among all Alberta communities and that 75 languages, other than English and French, are spoken in city homes. It states that the Indigenous population increased 20.8 per cent between 2016-21 and that six per cent of all residents self-identify as a visible minority born outside of this country. The population of immigrants has grown here by 15 per cent since 2011.

The 10-year impact of the plan will be improved inclusivity, a collective civic identity and a thriving intercultural ecosystem.

“The City is witnessing a transformative shift in its cultural landscape, surpassing the confines of its traditional departmental structure. Culture has been integrated into various citywide planning initiatives, extending beyond the purview of the current Community Arts and Culture portfolio within the Recreation and Culture Department. This evolution has, however, resulted in redundancies across City plans and a lack of coordination of efforts,” says the plan.

“Insights from interviews with City staff and organizations funded by the City, coupled with a thorough review of all City plans and strategies, underscore challenges arising from multiple plan engagements and duplicated efforts. This situation presents an opportunity for a more efficient allocation of resources and strategic consolidation,” says the plan.

One element of the plan calls for updating the public art master plan which was created in 2012. The plan says “traditionally confined to predefined sites, public art now plays a pivotal role in broader urban design objectives. By strategically incorporating public art into placemaking initiatives, mundane spaces can become vibrant hubs of creativity and expression.”

The plan also calls for the development of a cultural heritage policy to include commemoration and intangible cultural heritage which the plan says includes “living expressions and practices passed down within a community, such as traditions, knowledge, skills, rituals, language, and performances.”

Prioritizing culture in new development as well as revitalizing or repurposing existing facilities and public spaces is also part of the plan “to specifically support emerging diverse cultural collectives, artists, small and mid-size organizations and community cultural groups.”

And the report calls for an assessment of City-owned cultural amenities to analyze usage patterns and determine if the community is getting the best value from them.

One strategy contained in the plan is to acknowledge Blackfoot and Metis sovereignty and governance, “aligning strategies with Indigenous governance principles to shape

policies and plans related to traditional knowledge.”

It also calls for a review of the City’s Memorandum of Understanding and consult with both Blackfoot and city advisory groups to establish formal protocols for recognizing Indigenous traditional knowledge in arts and cultural policies.

One action in the plan calls for ensuring “Ensure that decision-making processes are community-led, granting autonomy to the Blackfoot and M├ętis communities, as well as diverse cultural groups, in determining how their knowledge is recognized and utilized in policies and plans and recognizing their inherent right to self-determination and governance systems.”

The plan also includes a strategy to develop a city-wide placemaking strategy which prioritizes the preservation of the unique cultural and historical character of places to ensure the evolution of public spaces doesn’t erase heritage.

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