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Response to Mayor Doug McCallum: Diversity and Inclusion Statement of June 18, 2020

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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum poses for a photograph at City Hall in Surrey, B.C. Photo: Darryl Dyck - The Globe and Mail.

Last week 4 headliners from the City of Surrey’s Canada Day celebrations pulled out based on the fact that the City of Surrey still hadn’t responded to its citizens pleas for the City to commit to dismantling anti-Black racism. Under mounting pressure they posted this statement: https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/31502.aspx

Once again, the City of Surrey is missing the mark. This is not enough. Below is the response on behalf of the petitioners, the African Heritage Festival of Music and Dance, & 5X Festival.

For two weeks now, we as a collective, have been asking the City of Surrey to show solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities and commit to anti-racism in our city. We’ve done this via social media, via petition, via headliners from the City of Surrey’s Canada Day Celebration, yet without adequate response.

We feel the city has been responding with the vocabulary of diversity and inclusion, rather than the vocabulary of anti-racism; and these are very different things. Let us preface by saying, we are not accusing anyone of being racist. We love Surrey, and we absolutely agree with Mayor McCallum that this city’s diversity is absolutely one of it’s fortifying pillars. The vibrancy of this city comes from that diversity.

However, all of our institutions are subject to systematic racism and acknowledging this fact is the very beginning of the journey of us moving through this together. Unfortunately, the City has yet to acknowledge this fundamental idea that there is systemic racism within the City of Surrey.

During June 15th’s Council Meeting, Mayor McCallum shared that in numerous speeches over the past 10 years he has said, “Surrey is unequivocally strengthened by our diversity. Our city is like a fabric and the threads that keep that fabric together are the different Cultures that we have and the diverse people that come together to work with one another.”

If we are to work with one another, please work with your citizens. If any one of your citizens feel that there is work to be done, then that is one to many. But it isn’t just one, it’s thousands. The Mayor went on to say that there is ‘no place for racism, discrimination or intolerance here or anywhere in the world.’ Well if there is no place for it, then it is time for us to accept and acknowledge the reality is that it does exist, here and everywhere in the world.

Where are the actions and policies that the City of Surrey is employing to specifically oppose racism? Not promote diversity, but dismantle racism. Let us be more specific in helping define the difference. According to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation:

Diversity is a term used to encompass the acceptance and respect of various dimensions including race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, age, physical abilities, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Anti-Racism however is an active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racism.

As the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre shares, “Some people may say they prefer the term “diversity.” … Popular/mainstream understandings of diversity often function to reinforce false notions that there is a level playing field in our society and  there are simply “differences” among those on the field that need to be respected.

Without diminishing the fundamental need for respect (as a human right), discourses of diversity often work in favour of maintaining racism and systemic racism because they fail to take into consideration, to analyze and truly critique and oppose imbalances of power among “diverse” individuals and groups.

The primary failure of the idea of  diversity is that it is premised on the false (and for the mainstream, comfortable) idea that equality already exists, as does equal access to the means of communication, participation in the economy, and so on.

The Province of British Columbia also separates Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism as the following:

Multiculturalism

As the most ethnically diverse province in Canada, British Columbia welcomes nearly 40,000 new immigrants every year. A rich multicultural society helps nurture inclusiveness, understanding and mutual respect. It is up to all of us to ensure that our multicultural society is supported today and for future generations.

One of B.C.’s greatest strengths is the diversity of the people who call this province home. Cultural diversity and increased participation and engagement by all cultures is vitally important to create a strong and vibrant social and economic future for British Columbia.

B.C.’s multicultural society is a key incentive to attract newcomers to our province and help address our regional skill shortages and grow our economy. With one million job openings expected by 2020 in B.C., immigrants will play a vital role in the economic well-being of the province.

Anti-Racism

B.C.’s multiculturalism policy states that violence, hatred and discrimination on the basis of racial identity have no place in our society. The province’s antiracism program empowers communities and organizations to maintain partnerships and develop projects to promote multiculturalism, address racism and build inclusive communities.

Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging, preventing, eliminating and changing the values, structures, policies, programs, practices and behaviours that perpetuate racism.

Many people think racism is not a problem in multicultural Canada, but racism still exists in many places, including British Columbia. Racism can take many forms and is often implicit in our attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and values. It is up to all of us to take a collaborative community approach to challenge and prevent racism and hate crime.

So while the statement Mayor McCallum read to Council on Monday for Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27th, is a great place to celebrate the city’s diversity, your response to the calls for the City of Surrey to commit to dismantling racism is not the place for such commentary.

As the Mayor shared himself on Monday, 22% of BC’s Indigenous population lives in Surrey. Not mentioned was that Surrey is also home to the largest Black population in British Columbia. Do these communities not deserve their City’s commitment to antiracism?

Yes, naming Henry Houston Scott Park in honour of one of the first African American families to settle in the area is important work; however it does not tackle the institutionalized racism that the Black community encounters on a regular basis.

If the Mayor and City Councillors do indeed stand by the words of their statement and ‘are constantly looking at how we can strengthen the diverse and inclusive society we have in Surrey’, then committing to dismantling institutionalized anti-Black and antiIndigenous racism should be a natural step.

If they truly agree that ‘racism against Black Indigenous and POC has not been eradicated,’ then we urge you to proactively do something about it. If they wish to “assure {us} that {they} will continue to condemn and eliminate all acts of hate and discrimination in our city,” then please respond to our specific asks and tell us how.

Share with us the City of Surrey’s action plan for anti-racism. What tangible steps is the City of Surrey taking to actively dismantle racism?

Systemic racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, are real, and the lack of any action from the leaders of our city in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement is frankly, hurtful. Especially given that the population of the city of Surrey is 60% Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, that Surrey has the largest Black population in British Columbia, and that we are in the midst of the largest civil rights movement of our generation; the lack of any statement or commitment to anti-racism from the city of Surrey in response to this is deplorable.

We demand better leadership from those entrusted to lead our city and we once again ask that the City:

  1. Acknowledges that anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism exist in the City
  2. Acknowledges that civic institutions have tacitly perpetuated systematic racism
  3. Clarifies what percentage of the executive leadership of the City is diverse, and how that can change
  4. Commits to actively dismantling systemic racism, discrimination and intolerance from our systems
  5. Commits to drafting and putting into place a policy ensuring that Surrey is an inclusive and equitable place for Black and Indigenous and POC communities

The creator of Surrey604.com, Daman Beatty (AKA 'Beatler') is originally from Sackville, New Brunswick. A longtime media producer, visual designer, marketing and communications specialist, Daman loves travel, technology and being a Daddy.

City

The best trails to explore in Surrey this fall

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Image via @waferboard / Flickr

There is something beautiful about walking or biking along a trail full of trees with changing leaves and this is the perfect time of year to experience it. Surrey Centre has some amazing trails to explore in the Green Timbers and Holland Park areas that are perfect for a leisurely stroll, a jog, a bike ride or a family affair that the pets and kids can join. Here is a list of the best trails to check out.

Holland Park Loop

Holland Park is a popular park in Surrey, one that hosts plenty of outdoor events, music festivals and gatherings. On top of that, the park also includes a trail loop perfect for a leisurely stroll. The Holland Park Loop is 0.8 kilometres long and is good for all skill levels. The trail is popular for walking, running, and road biking. There are often dogs seen on the trail when it’s nice out, and it’s a great place to take the family and kids. This loop is best used from April to November.

Birch and Willow Trail

Part of Green Timbers forest, the Birch and Willow Trail is a 1.8-km loop. This trail offers scenic views as it features a lake that is often full of ducks. It’s a great walk for kids as well, and has plenty of signs to follow. The trail is popular for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips. The gravel makes it a nice trail even on a rainy day.

Birch Salal and Douglas Loop

Another loop in Green Timbers is the Birch, Salal and Douglas Loop. This is a bit longer at 2.9 km. This loop also features the lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is flat with lots of shade. It’s a great place to go for a walk, jog, or bike ride. There is an area for picnics by the lake where you can take a rest after your exercise. This trail is often used for hiking, walking, running, and biking. There is limited parking in the area, so be prepared to walk to the trail.

Salmonberry, Yellow Arum, Douglas Fir and Hemlock Loop

If you are looking for a longer trail in Green Timbers, you will find the Salmonberry, Yellow Arum, Douglas Fir and Hemlock Loop. This is a 5.6-km loop. As the name implies there are beautiful trees along this hike. The trail is acceptable for all levels, though it is a bit longer so it’s best to prepare ahead. The trail is popular for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips. In certain spots the trail comes close to the road, and some areas can be waterlogged at times, but it’s an enjoyable walk all the same. 

Hawthorne Park Loop

Hawthorne Park Loop is a 1.9-km trail in beautiful Hawthorne Park. There is a lot of nature to take in here including plenty of beautiful wildflowers making this loop a favourite among birdwatchers. Good for all skill levels, this trail is popular for walking, running, and nature trips. Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be on a leash. This area is very popular amongst hikers and runners, for good reason.

Willow, Cedar and Pine Trail

There is one more Green Timbers trail worth mentioning. The Willow, Cedar and Pine Trail is a 2.6-km back trail. The lake is accessible from this trail as well and it is suitable for beginner hikers. This loop is great for a walk or run.

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5 ways Affordable Housing will Benefit the City of Surrey

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Lack of affordable housing has quickly become one of the largest barriers in preventing homelessness in British Columbia. Having served the Lower Mainland for the past 50 years, Options Community Services and Habitat Housing Society are working to provide safe, affordable rental units for the local community

Options provides essential social services in Surrey, Delta, White Rock/South Surrey and Langley. Recently, the organization has partnered with 50 local women to help raise $1.5 million in funding for a new affordable housing building in Surrey, BC. The money raised in this partnership will go towards the 100-unit complex at 81st and King George Boulevard. Of these 100 units, 30 will be market rentals, while the remaining 70 will be well below market rates —designated as affordable housing, with rent starting as low as $375 per month. This building and the resources connected to it will make a monumental impact on the community. Here are 5 ways that this building will directly impact Surrey:

1. Additional Resources:

Not only will the affordable housing build feature 100 new rental units, but it will also feature several community services provided by Options. These services include Early Years, special needs services for children and mental health outreach. Having these programs available for tenants in the building will be a bonus for all.

2. Build Relationships:

Whether it’s a social worker or an elementary school teacher, having and maintaining long-lasting relationships is crucial to establishing roots in a community. These networks of support will help at-risk individuals and vulnerable people build stability in their lives and increase their sense of community. Knowing there are people in your neighbourhood that can help support you can be a relief for individuals who do not have friends, family, or any other source of support.

3. Accessibility:

Currently, the housing market is very hot and the number of buyers is outnumbering the available stock. This applies to both home buyers and renters who are looking for affordable places to stay. This building offers 100 brand-new units that are affordable for low-income families. These families otherwise might not have any other options to turn to and be forced to consider unsafe housing conditions. Priced at $375 monthly for a one-bedroom, these homes can change the lives of those who are in need.  

4. Increased Safety:

By having a door to lock and a place to call home, the safety and security of the community is enhanced. Far too often, vulnerable peoples are subjected to unsafe conditions or forced to make tough choices. Many of these individuals are women fleeing violence, refugees, displaced seniors, at-risk youth or persons living on a disability income. . Housing such as this will better protect these groups and ensure that they have access to safe, secure and affordable places to live.

5. Job Growth:

The success of our vulnerable community members is a success for us all. In communities with affordable housing, there is often a growth in job opportunities.  A study by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing found that affordable housing projects created nearly 330,000 jobs in New York between 2011 and 2015, with many of them being permanent or long-lasting contracts (source). From engineers to health care workers, the growth of a community can directly contribute to an increased demand for workers. 

The Women of Options campaign was created to support the build at King George and 81st. More information and a profile on each of the 50 Women of Options can be found at womenofoptions.ca. Community support is vital to ensure its success. To learn more about ways to help or donate, please visit womenofoptions.ca.

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Plastic Bag and Foam Takeout Container Ban Planned To Come Into In Effect November 2021

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The City of Surrey moves a step closer in eliminating the negative environmental impacts of plastic bags and other single-use Items.

At last night’s Regular Council Meeting, Council approved the Communication and Education Plan to prepare businesses for the ban on plastic bags and foam takeout container and cups, planned to begin in November 2021.

“I’m proud that Surrey is anticipated to be the first city in the Metro Vancouver region to implement a ban on plastic checkout bags,” says Mayor McCallum.

“Council has been leading the way on green initiatives and this step is proof of the measures we are prepared to take to protect and better our environment. This move affirms Surrey’s commitment to reducing landfill waste and pollution created by these types of materials.

In the coming months, we will be working closely with our business community to support them on this very important initiative that is good for our citizens, our communities and our City.”

The City will lead a comprehensive communication and education plan to help businesses phase out and eliminate the use and distribution of plastic checkout bags, foam cups and take-out containers.

The plan outlines key tools, resources and awareness activities which will prepare businesses and the public for the upcoming ban.

The plan will include:

  • A business toolkit;
  • Virtual information sessions;
  • Brochures; and
  • Additional engagement activities and resources.

Other municipalities, provinces, and the federal government are making similar commitments to reducing unnecessary waste and pollution caused by short-lived plastics that are designed for limited use with limited recyclability.

For more information on Surrey’s please visit our site.

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Surrey Libraries Offers Access to O’Reilly eBooks and Videos

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Surrey Libraries is excited to announce the addition of O’Reilly eBooks to its list of online resources. This platform offers over 35,000 eBooks and 30,000 hours of video courses on technology, business, design, science, engineering, travel, hobbies, health and more, all free with a Surrey Libraries card!

O’Reilly has books and videos for makers, gamers and tinkerers. There are more than 100 hobbyist titles including a STEAM Lab for Kids and The Lego Build-It Book, Volumes 1 & 2. More than 900 books from the “For Dummies” series are included, as well as over 150 titles on job-seeking and career development.

The resource also has technology learning paths like SQL Fundamentals – SQL for Data Analysis and Database Design, case studies like “Pinterest’s Journey to the Cloud,” and countless hours of video instruction on topics like Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, Linux Fundamentals, or Amazon Web Services.

O’Reilly is one of many online resources Surrey Libraries offers its members. No library card? No problem! Sign up for a card online or visit any one of ten branch locations.

We’re excited to welcome you back to our branches! Check our website for information on hours and available services and what we’re doing to keep everyone safe.

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Surrey Could Have The Most Expensive Police Department In The Province: Councillor Linda Annis

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SPS is paying a premium for officers and taxpayers will be paying the bill: Councillor Linda Annis

Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis believes Doug McCallum’s police department could end up being the most expensive in the province.

Annis wants the board of the Surrey Police Service to provide a side-by-side comparison of police salaries paid by the RCMP, Vancouver Police Department, Surrey Police Service and other municipal police forces in British Columbia.

“It certainly looks like Surrey is paying a hefty premium to recruit officers into the SPS, and every one of those dollars will have to be paid by our Surrey taxpayers,” said Annis.

“I’ve always warned that when it comes to the mayor’s police department, we should all get ready for sticker shock.”

Annis said after one year of service, an RCMP constable is paid $74,916. Meanwhile the salary of a first year SPS constable is $80,880, $6,000 more. In addition, the federal government subsidizes RCMP salaries in Surrey, which means the city saves 10 per cent.

A similar comparison of second year constables shows the RCMP’s salary at $80,786, with the Vancouver Police Department paying $82,181, and the SPS paying $86,272.

“When you compare what we will be paying for the SPS, the RCMP are an incredible bargain for our taxpayers,” added Annis.

“Even if you take away the federal subsidy, the cost of the RCMP is still well below what we’re about to pay for SPS officers. Clearly, the mayor’s promise that his police department would cost just 10 per cent more doesn’t even come close to the truth or the real cost to our city.”

Annis said the mayor and the SPS board owe the taxpayers of Surrey a side-by-side comparison of salaries, and that comparison should include the RCMP, the VPD and other municipal forces in the province.

“With these salaries and the ever-increasing transition costs, it’s easy to conclude that Surrey could end up with the most expensive police department in the province, all because Doug McCallum made a promise he knew he could not keep when it comes to the real cost of his police department. A side-by-side comparison of salaries is a good place to start and something taxpayers deserve to see.”

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