The Village of Keremeos put forward a policy Monday July 6, 2020 that details the Village’s plan to eliminate systemic racism from within. From left to right: Councillor Arden Holley, Councillor Jason Wiebe, Mayor Manfred Bauer, Councillor Sherry Philpott-Adhikary and Councillor Jeremy Evans. (Submitted)

Village of Keremeos looks to dismantle systemic racism

Mayor says the time is right to deconstruct racist institutions

The Village of Keremeos has joined the ongoing and widespread efforts to dismantle the pillars of systemic racism and oppression.

Keremeos council decided in a June 6, meeting to implement an anti-racism policy into their governing operations.

The policy was drafted with a desire to ensure that people are treated fairly by elected officials and village staff regardless of race.

Mayor Manfred Bauer said the timing was right for Keremeos to take action as discourse about the deconstruction of oppressive institutions and bureaucracies continues on a near-global scale.

“In light of a renewed focus on the issue of racism in the world, it is timely for the Village of Keremeos to adopt an anti-racism policy,” said Keremeos’ mayor of two years.

The village’s anti-racism also policy outlines principles, roles and responsibilities, and a complaint process for acts of racism and racial discrimination for elected officials, city staff and residents.

Under the policy, Keremeos’ elected officials and city staff are required to conduct all day to day operations and local government functions in a manner free of racism and racial discrimination; and “to respect the fundamental rights, personal worth and human dignity of People of Colour and Indigenous Peoples.”

In the eight-page document, the village acknowledges and recognizes the community’s potential at all levels for racism in all forms.

The village acknowledges institutional racism (or systemic discrimination) and defines it as “the institutionalization of discrimination through policies and practices which may appear neutral on the surface but which have an exclusionary impact on particular groups. This occurs in institutions and organizations, including government, where the policies, practices and procedures.”

In the document, the village notes the difference between institutional racism and individual racism, the latter is defined as “assumptions, beliefs and behaviours that stem from conscious and unconscious personal prejudice.”

The village’s new policy details how systems and citizens can reject racist practices. The policy also exists to hold elected officials and village staff accountable while showing that anti-racist behaviours can begin at the top of local systems.

The hope is that by instilling a plan to keep racism out of the village’s bureaucratic functions, village residents will do the same, said mayor Manfred Bauer.

“This should be common sense and on many levels it has been, but there still is prejudice towards people from certain ethnic backgrounds, religions, gender oriented, sexual orientation oriented. There’s all kinds of stuff in our society that I think needs to addressed.”

Bauer said the village’s new policy was put in place to make a statement to the public, both visitors and locals, that elected officials and village staff in Keremeos are committed to a “code” of treating everyone equally “regardless of their skin colour, religion or gender.”

In 2016, Keremeos’ census population was 1,502 people, according to Statistics Canada. Black, Indigneous and People of Colour accounted for .08 per cent of that population.

A copy of Keremeos’ anti-racism policy in its entirety can be found at keremeos.civicweb.net

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