Stony Plain Together we shine. Inclusion is…

Posted On Thursday May 09, 2019

Have you ever been excluded for being different? Was it because of your gender? Your gender identity? Your ethnic background? Your language? Your ability? Your religion? Or even a combination of the above?

This spring Stony Plain Family and Community Support Services is launching a project to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in strengthening our community’s social, cultural, and economic vibrancy.

Through community conversations and input from stakeholders, they aim to create an action plan and start implementing projects to make Stony Plain more welcoming and inclusive. According to Sharida Csillag, Community Development Coordinator with Stony Plain FCSS, “This initiative is about reflecting the diversity of our community into our governance, planning and service delivery.”

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) defines diversity as all the ways that people are different, including the characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. A broad definition of diversity includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender —what we most often think about when we hear ‘diversity’ —but also age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. Diversity also describes differences in ideas, perspectives, and values.

Diversity brings beauty and value to our communities, and yet still people are excluded because of their differences.

AUMA goes on to define inclusion as, “the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming community embraces human differences, sees them as strengths, and offers respect in both words and actions for all people.”

Inclusion will look differently to each of us.

For Amy Quintal, Board President, Foundation for Cohesive Communities, inclusion means, “all people are valued and met exactly where they are at.” Quintal and her group work to support inclusion of children and youth living with disability in all community environments, so every family touched by disability feels welcomed and supported. They believe that the stories of those with disabilities can inform and re-imagine the environments in which we all live, work and play.

For Tannis Matthews, founder and organizer of Pride in the Park in Stony Plain, living in a community that is inclusive and supportive is vital. "Residing in a community that truly nourishes an individual's basic hunger to be accepted is essential to thrive. I believe this to be particularly true for the LGBTQ+ youth, where a sense of belonging can sometimes literally save lives. The fact that Stony Plain continuously strives to maintain an inclusive and welcoming environment is instrumental in helping events such as PRIDE in the PARK take place."

For Ken Leinweber, President of the Stony Plain Seniors Centre, inclusion means a healthier community. “Inclusion in the community allows for seniors to have a healthy and active lifestyle with support and meaningful relationships.” Seniors have much to offer our community. Our local seniors centre offers a space for older adults to enjoy games, exercise, and recognition of their importance.

For Arlaine Monaghan, Co-Chair of the local Connecting with Indigenous Neighbours Committee, inclusion means making sure that history never repeats itself, and that everybody is working together to eliminate systemic problems created by historical wrongs including residential schools, the “Sixties Scoop”, and other actions that devastated the culture and lifestyle of Indigenous people in our area and across Canada. Monaghan feels warmed by the welcome the group has received in our community.

Stony Plain FCSS believes that all Stony Plain residents and visitors in our community regardless of ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, age, income level or language, bring value to our community and should be able to fully participate in all aspects of life.

Being more inclusive and diverse will increase and strengthen our community’s economic advantage. It will allow our community programming and services to be more efficient. Being inclusive is also required to meet provincial, federal and international standards. But, most importantly, it will make Stony Plain a better and safer community for all.

For more information about programs and projects, visit Stony Plain FCSS.