Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Racism in my life growing up. What we can do as a community to address racism.

Reading the news about protests in Canadian and American cities due to the systemic police violence against black people in both countries has really got me thinking about my past.

My mom is black, and while she was born in New Zealand, her family relocated to Liberia which is on the west coast of Africa. My mom started nursing school in England and finished school in Montreal. She later moved to New Westminster before moving to Kelowna where she met my dad.

My dad’s family is from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and originally from England, Frances, and Germany.

As a kid growing up, I did not think much about racism. In school, we were taught about the importance of multiculturism and celebrating our differences. I remember in elementary school having a day where we wore clothes and shared food from our cultural backgrounds.

As I became older, I became more aware of racism against black people, though it was mostly in the context of the United States. I had this idea that racism against black people did not exist in Canada.

I know today that this is not the case.

Racism has always existed in Metro Vancouver, BC, and Canada. The government forced Indigenous people from their homes onto reserves, and destroyed families due to the horrors of residential schools.

Chinese Canadians were forced to pay a head tax to stay in Canada, and were not allowed to vote.

Sikhs were barred entry into Vancouver in what is now known as the Komagata Maru incident.

My high school in Vernon was built on the site of a Japanese internment camp.

Generations of black Canadian have lived in Halifax and Toronto where they have been subjected to racism. Our 10-dollar bill highlights the story of Viola Desmond who was a “successful black businesswoman who was jailed, convicted and fined for defiantly refusing to leave a whites-only area of a New Glasgow (Nova Scotia) movie theatre in 1946.”

The City of Vancouver leveled Hogan’s Alley to the ground to make way for the Georgia Viaduct. Hogan’s Alley was the home of the black community going back to the mid-1800s.

Growing up in the Okanagan, I can only remember a few occasions where I was subjected to direct racism. I remember a kid in school calling me the n-word for example, but the kind of racism that exists in BC is more subtle.

My mom and dad got looks and whispers from some people because the were an interracial couple.

My uncle immigrated to the Okanagan in the 1990s. He worked as a civil engineer in Liberia, after obtaining his degree in from a university in the Netherlands. I remember him telling me that people were interest in hiring him until they saw him in person. After try without success to get work in BC as a civil engineer, he moved back to Liberia.

Living in Langley for 17 years, I know that racism exists in our community. I also know that 95% of people that live in Langley are good people, wanting to do right by others.

Dealing with systemic racism can feel overwhelming, but there are things we as individuals can do.

We must acknowledge that racism excites in our community today, think about the biases that we might have about other people, and where those biases came from.

For me, working with people from different backgrounds has helped me to address my own biases about others.

In my day job, I am responsible for hiring people. My first goal is to find someone with the right qualifications. My second goal is to find people who are different than me. Diversity creates stronger teams.

If you are close with some who says something racist, even in the form of a joke, it can be a good opportunity to talk to them about racism.

As someone who is elected to Langley City council, I have an important role to play. I must advocate to ensure that our City’s policies and actions support creating an inclusive and welcoming community.

If you want to learn more about the history of Metro Vancouver, I suggest you read “The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Langley City Hall, library, and park amenities opening today with restrictions

Hunter Park Playground

As I posted about last week, we are in phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan. In phase two of this plan, the province is allowing libraries, recreation facilities, and park amenities to be reopened under health authority and WorkSafe BC requirements. Starting today, the following will be reopened in the City:

Library Service - FVRL Express

“Beginning June 1, you can start picking up library holds using our FVRL Express - Click, Pick, Go. The new contactless service offers customers a physically distanced way to pick up library holds and return items at all 25 locations.”

More information at: FVRL Express

City Hall – Tax Processing Only

City Hall will be accessible through the north entry only though property owners are encouraged to use the City’s online tools.

Online Tools

Online Payment System

Claim Homeowners Grant

Recreation Programs

Outdoor youth programming is resuming

Park Amenities

The following additional park amenities will be opening today:

  • Sports courts
  • Outdoor fitness equipment
  • Picnic shelters
  • Playgrounds
  • The parkour course at Penzer Park
  • The greenhouse at Sendall Gardens

Please continue to:

  • Keep two metres away from others
  • Avoid large groups
  • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time
  • Stay home if feeling sick

As a note, parking enforcement will be starting today as parking utilization is returning to normal levels in our downtown core.

For more information, please visit the City’s COVID-19 information page.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

May 25 Council Meeting: Lock Out Auto Crime, Public Hearings, and Eliminating Homelessness

This week, I’ve been posting about the afternoon Langley City council meeting that was held on Monday. I covered Langley City’s 2019 financial audit as well as what the City is doing to support BC’s Restart Plan due to COVID-19. Today, I will be covering the remaining topics from that meeting.

One of the goals of Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group is to reduce the theft of items from vehicles. This is the single largest segment of criminal activity in our community. One of the hot spots for theft from vehicles is around Linwood Park.

Earlier in the year, ICBC provided eight “Lock Out Auto Crime” signs which were placed around Linwood Park at the request of the Crime Prevention Task Group. These signs were made of low-cost plastic, and were vandalize and/or stolen. The task group requested that these signs be replaced with metal signs for a total cost of $500. These signs would be the same quality as all other street signs in our community.

Council approved the Crime Prevention Task Group’s request. Once the new signs are installed, the City and RCMP will monitor if there is a reduction in theft from vehicles around Linwood Park.

As I posted about a few weeks ago, council gave first and second reading for a rezoning bylaw to allow a 4-Storey, 92-Unit Rental Apartment between 200 and 200A Street. Council gave third reading of that bylaw on Monday.

Currently, council meetings are held by Zoom and posted to YouTube. This has made it impossible to hold public hearings or allow people to view council meetings in real-time. The provincial government now allows public hearing to be conduction via solutions like Zoom as long as the provincial state of emergency due to COVID-19 is in place. Previously, public hearing had to occur in-person.

Council approved allowing public hearings to be held via Zoom Webinar and Video Conferencing. This will allow people in our community to once again participate in council meetings if they choose.

Council received a letter from the City of Port Moody regarding homelessness and passed the following motion in response:

WHEREAS our society has been plagued by homelessness and a lack of support systems for those affected by addictions and mental illness for generations;

AND WHEREAS the state of homelessness in our region has only worsened over the course of decades and throughout multiple Provincial Governments;

AND WHEREAS an eventual economic rebuild is a good opportunity to make positive upgrades to our society;

BE IT RESOLVED:

THAT the City of Langley considers a return to the “normal” state of homelessness in our region, province, and nation after the COVID emergency fundamentally unacceptable;

AND THAT the City of Langley call on the Metro Vancouver Regional District, the Government of BC, and the Government of Canada to use the post-COVID recovery as an opportunity to “upgrade” our society by eliminating homelessness;

AND THAT the City of Langley supports a return to large-scale supportive housing arrangements for those afflicted by mental illness, such as a revived facility at Riverview.

As a note, Ellen Hall was appointed to the City’s Environmental Task Group.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Restarting Langley City: Businesses, Parks, and Recreation Services

Over the last several weeks, the provincial government has been rolling out “BC’s Restart Plan.” This is a multistage process to remove restricts and shutdowns that were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now in phase 2 of this plan.

In this phase of the plan, museums, art galleries, childcare facilities, libraries, recreation, sports, parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces are opening following WorkSafeBC protocols. This means that many municipal services will be opening again under enhanced protocol to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Langley City council received an update from Kim Hilton who is the Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services at Monday afternoon’s council meeting. She noted that some in-person recreation services will be starting up in our community including programming for kids and youth starting on June 1st.

Langley City’s Economic Development Task Group which includes members of council and the business community also presented its restart action plan which was approved by council. The action plan includes:

  • Working with the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Langley Business Association to assist businesses to clarify and interpret COVID-19 related government regulation and guidelines.
  • Supporting businesses to develop their safety plans in accordance with WorkSafe BC requirements.
  • Supporting businesses to help them re-open including supporting the specific requirement for restaurants.
  • Implementing a marketing and promotional campaign for Langley City businesses and Downtown Langley.
  • Lobbying the provincial and federal governments for stimulus funding for infrastructure projects to create jobs.
  • Reviewing if municipalities are permitted to “buy local” first, and if so, review the City’s procurement policy.
  • Promoting the availability of the provincial residential property tax deferment program.

This is just a selection of items from the full report.

Council also received letters from restaurant and brewery industry organizations requesting actions that will be addressed in Langley City’s restart action plan. These letters were sent to staff for follow-up.

One of the things that has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in the use of non-compostable, single-use packaging which creates long-term health and environmental impacts. Langley City council approved a motion by Councillor Wallace to “requests the provincial and federal governments to provide a subsidy for biodegradable and/or eco-friendly packaging for the food and beverage industry.”

With more activity in our community, some people are walking on streets to maintain a two-metre distance from each other. Council passed the following motion which I put forward.

WHEREAS Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that "if you are passing someone on a sidewalk where you cannot keep 2 metres apart, and you walk by them 'very quickly,' the risk of spreading COVID-19 is negligible";

WHEREAS a standard sidewalk is around 1.5 metres wide making it impossible to keep 2 metres apart; and,

WHEREAS many people are walking in general vehicle travel lanes to maintain a 2-metre distance from other people, increasing the risk of personal injury:

THAT council direct Mayor van den Broek to send a letter on behalf of council requesting that Fraser Health provide official public guidance for people who are passing others while using a sidewalk.