Grimshaw rejects anti-racism delegation

This man was photographed in a KKK-style hood in front of the Grimshaw Post Office in early January.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

The protestors who have been asking the Town of Grimshaw to take action against racism since a man was spotted in a KKK-style hood at the local post office made it onto the Town’s official council agenda on Feb. 25, but not all of them were able to speak.

Natasha Negraiff staged a one woman protest at the Grimshaw post office in January and spoke as a concerned citizen at the meeting.

She says she tried to make the point that the hood incident could be used as an opportunity for Grimshaw to be a leader in the north in addressing racial awareness and education.

“I think with encouragement they could bring some good things forward,” Negraiff says.

After presentations, council reviewed its own news releases on the issue, as well as correspondence from the Black and Indigenous Alliance and Alberta Humanitarian Initiative requesting the chance to send a delegation to the meeting.

“In response to the inaction by the Town of Grimshaw’s mayor and council members; which we would argue is due to a lack of understanding. Which by default would aid in the lack of understanding the seriousness and harm that such an event would have on racialized peoples in and around Grimshaw, the Alberta Humanitarian Initiative held a civil rights action in Grimshaw Saturday, Jan. 23 outside of the Grimshaw post office where the member of your community was photographed in the KKK hood,” Kisha Daniels writes in an e-mail reviewed at the meeting.

Daniels says members of the community were “followed and harassed” and police are investigating. She says members of her group have also been harassed online by people from Grimshaw.

“This is evidence that there is room and need for education and open conversation involving anti-racism in Grimshaw,” Daniels writes.

“Please do not believe that we are under the impression that all citizens of Grimshaw are overtly racist or that your community is racist. Members of the Alberta Humanitarian Initiative understand that we are all born and indoctrinated into a systemic system of oppression.”

She continues.

“We have read the mayor’s statement stating the mayor and council of Grimshaw do not condone acts of racism. As well as there has been many members of your community who have reached out to our organization to offer support and who have begun to use their voices in support of anti-racism and an equitable society,” Daniels writes in the letter.

In e-mails included in the council correspondence, the Town declined the delegation’s attendance, citing COVID concerns. When Daniels offered to have the delegation attend via Zoom to address COVID safety concerns, the Town again declined.

The Town invited the Alberta Humanitarian Initiative and Black and Indigenous Alliance to send literature, pre-recorded video or a PowerPoint presentation instead.

Grimshaw’s council still meets in person in the council chamber and the public is allowed to attend following social distancing rules and wearing masks.

Although in past council has held a Zoom meeting with councillors attending from their homes and members of the public attending in council chambers, CAO Brian Allen says via e-mail that having delegations or media attend online via Zoom is not currently possible.

“We are working on having a camera system installed in council chambers that will allow us full connectivity to share the council meetings in the future,” Allen says.

Those who may want to watch or hear Grimshaw’s council meetings after they are complete are also out of luck.

“As for now we currently do not video or audio record meetings,” he says.

That contrasts with neighbours the Town of Peace River and Northern Sunrise County. Peace River council holds meetings via Zoom and makes the video available afterwards as well as audio recordings via SoundCloud. Northern Sunrise County posts their full council meetings to their YouTube channel.

As part of new business, Grimshaw’s mayor and council reviewed the Measuring Inclusion Tool for Municipal Government from the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. The tool is designed to help municipal governments understand where they are fostering a culture of inclusion and where they have room for improvement.

Grimshaw and Berwyn’s Community Services also announced on Feb. 23 that the communities will be participating in the AUMA’s #ItStartsWithMe campaign March 18-21. The social media campaign encourages people to “meet someone whose culture is different than yours” and then sharing a photo or video of the encounter explaining what they have learned. Random prizes will be given to people who participate.

March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

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