One of the strengths of our country lies in its diversity and how Canadians embrace the ideals of multiculturalism. These ideals are being put to the test. Most community members are aware of the several recent incidents of police use of force, both in Canada and abroad, that have heightened racial tensions and led to protests around the world. It is now more important than ever that we remember the values that make us Canadian, and address the injustices that still exist.
This past month, I have had conversations with community members about their personal experiences, concerns, and aspirations to build a better West Vancouver. Our society is undergoing a major transformation—calling for changes to systemic racism, prejudice, devaluation and violence targeted at marginalized communities, including Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ2S+, and People of Colour.
Council is committed to creating a complete community—one that is livable, vibrant and inclusive. The District of West Vancouver is taking action to combat racism, which has no place here or anywhere. In this regard, I’d like to share with you some initiatives underway to make West Vancouver safer, fairer and more inclusive.
Truth and Reconciliation
Building a strong and respectful relationship with First Nations is a long-standing and vitally important priority for the District. The Truth and Reconciliation movement, which works to redress the tragic legacy of residential schools, is an opportunity for us to strengthen that relationship. The process of Truth and Reconciliation asks us to listen, to hear people’s truth and history, and to respect it. Staff and Council have attended cultural awareness training to give us the tools to do this better. West Vancouver Memorial Library has taken a leadership role, and been recognized for their Honouring Reconciliation: Hearing the Truth program. And since 2016, the West Vancouver Police have partnered with the Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation in Pulling Together Canoe Journeys. The WVPD’s canoe, Ch'ich'iyúy is all about continuing to foster the partnership built over many years with the First Nations communities they serve.
In January 2020, Councillor Wong brought forward a motion, that was unanimously supported by Council, to seek the support of the Land Title and Survey Authority of B.C. to strike historical discriminatory covenants from land title records. I've examined a number of such titles, and they are hard to read and hard to listen to–“No person of the African or Asiatic race, or of African or Asiatic descent (except servants of the occupier of the premises in residence) shall reside or be allowed to remain on the premises.” Although now void, they remain on title for many properties in our community and in the region. It’s difficult to imagine a time when this was acceptable, and it is offensive that they still remain. I’d like to thank Councillor Wong for bringing this forward, and I am hopeful that the provincial government will assist us, and other municipalities, in removing these long-standing affronts to human dignity. At the same time, Council is reaching out to academic institutions and non-profit organizations, asking them to examine and document these historical records so that this part of our history is not forgotten, and never repeated.
Anti-Racism Training for District Staff
This month I publicly committed to ensuring that West Vancouver employees receive anti-racism training. The recent anti-racism protests have resulted in sweeping attitudinal changes and will have a lasting effect. West Vancouver employees want to be a part of this change, and ensure that they serve our community well.
Anti-racism training is a process of recognizing individual, institutional and systemic racism and addressing it. It is important to me that we implement this process at the staff level so that employees can provide services to the public in an equitable manner, without regard to race, colour, ancestry, religion or any other distinguishing ground.
Ever year Council has worked with the West Vancouver Police Department to celebrate Pride Month, and this June was extra special. For the first time, led by the Police Department, we raised the Pride Flag over Municipal Hall in support of our LGBTQ2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Two-Spirit) community. This was soon followed by the installation of a rainbow crosswalk at the corner of 16th Street and Esquimalt Avenue, also organized by the Police and funded by a private donation.
As Mayor and Chair of the Police Board, I am very aware of the heightened scrutiny of police operations across North America at this time. The West Vancouver Police Department’s values of accountability, collaboration, integrity and professionalism are evident in everything they do, and I know our police officers are very much valued by the community they serve, and for the motto they embody–“no call too small”. Now more than ever, our police officers and all our first responders need our support and encouragement, as they strive to make West Vancouver safer for all.
At this moment in history, we are poised to be able to make real and lasting change for current residents and employees, and future generations. I encourage everyone to join me in welcoming these changes, and the learning that will be available, with open minds and open hearts.
I wish you all a safe, joyful and inspiring Canada Day!
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth