How can we be more inclusive?

This week one of the agenda items was talking about how to demonstrate inclusivity in the City. Recently there has been media coverage on some cities (including Kelowna) installing rainbow crosswalks to acknowledge the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning) community. While that might have the current focus or buzz, I’d submit we need to develop a broader diversity strategy.

Being inclusive means more than an individual’s orientation. For example, when you walk into City Hall the first thing you see is the word “Welcome” in 17 different languages – a special symbol that diversity is celebrated in our community. Ultimately I feel inclusivity means being a welcoming community for all people – no matter their culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, demographics or religion.

Our Recreation Department recently introduced RADAR.  Radar is a youth diversity program that aims to create a sense of belonging for youth of all identities, while providing a positive space for them to explore their individuality, meet other like-minded youth and have access to resources and mentors. In the Fall/Winter Rec Guide, they actually provide some tips in how you can create safe spaces for all:

  • Learn about diversity and social justice.
  • The media has been a great source lately for shining a light on the diversity of people and it’s helping create awareness and dialogue. Dig a little deeper and do a little research. There are lots of reputable websites and organizations that are dedicated to education and awareness of diversity and social justice.
  • Use open and inclusive language in every day conversation. Try to use the term ‘partner’ in place of terms like ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or ‘husband/wife’ and replace gendered pronouns using ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’. Encourage the people around you to try it out too.
  • Throw away the stereotypes and rely on self-identification.  Rather than assuming you know what a person’s identity is, allow each person to tell you how incredibly awesome and unique they are.
  • Have visible signs of inclusions. Displaying a Safe Space decal is a great way to let people know they are entering a space that welcomes and embraces people of all identities and expressions.
  • Respectfully interrupt and challenge prejudicial and discriminatory statements when you hear them. This can be scary and intimidating, so try it out first with closer friends and family. Often this leads to an open conversation where you can take the opportunity to share all the cool things you’ve been learning about diversity and social justice.

Every citizen and visitor deserves the right to be acknowledged and respected. It takes a welcoming and inclusive attitude to embrace this, and shift the mindset from people being “others” in our City, to truly being part of our community.