There are a couple of ways to view New Westminster’s decision to look into the possibility of creating a diversity mandate for city committees (see story page 3).
One could ask why the heck this hasn’t been done earlier. After all, it is 2017, and diversity and fair representation and affirmative action are not new concepts. And then there’s the other way of looking at council’s decision: it is a heartfelt, powerful move to really change the way politics are built from the ground up in this city.
We prefer the second way of looking at the decision.
Gurveen Dhaliwal deserves huge kudos for not only bringing the subject up but for advocating for a diversity mandate for the city’s advisory committees.
It’s not easy to speak truth to power, even if that power is as welcoming as Mayor Jonathan Cote.
And then there’s Nadine Nakagawa, who tells us that when she was attending one of the city’s civic dinners for volunteers as a member of the multicultural committee: “...the committees were asked to stand up and be acknowledged, which is a really nice practice. When the multicultural advisory committee stood up, it seemed to me that all the people of colour in the room stood up.”
She said it was a stark display of how people of colour were “siloed.” She’s absolutely right, and, again, she also deserves kudos for speaking out.
So now it’s up to city staff to pull together a plan and policies for how to broaden the city’s tent and make the city a much more representative community.
It’s not an easy task.
There’s a reason academics call it “institutionalized racism and sexism.” Political and justice systems have evolved over decades, if not centuries, to keep the white guys at the top.
And too often diversity mandates end up merely increasing token appointments meant to look like real change.
We hope city council’s directive doesn’t just turn into “window dressing” but actually helps redesign the whole house.
Everybody will benefit from a city hall that truly reflects this city’s diversity.