Airdrie City council and mayor hopefuls participated in their second forum on Oct. 7, answering questions focused on how they would advocate for the local arts and culture community, if elected.
The event was hosted by local author, playwright, and arts activist Kim Cheel. When it kicked off and questions came in, three candidates were picked at random to answer each question.
The forum featured nearly every candidate for both council and mayor, and covered a wide variety of topics, including the importance of art and Indigenous relations.
The online-hosted event kicked off with a question by Kiersten Mohr, who is an executive board member with the Airdrie Pride Society, founder of Terra Firma Transition, and an Airdrie-based advocate for the LGBTQ2+ community.
Mohr's question was centred around conversion therapy – the attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression – and how the candidates feel about Bill C-6, which will criminalize conversion therapy across the country.
While the bill has been passed, it has been stalled at the senate. Mohr’s question asked candidates if they would support introducing a bylaw to protect people at risk of conversion therapy.
Council hopeful Chris Stockton was one of three respondents to the question, and said he has had friends who have struggled with the issue.
“It is something that is close to my heart and close to the community that I interact with a lot of the time,” he said. “If there is something we can do to help people be authentically themselves and protect young people from something that can be traumatic, I would be in favour of pursuing that.”
Candidate Derrick Greenwood said he also supports laws that outlaw conversion therapy.
“I have had a close family member that has struggled with this,” he said. “For me, it’s about supporting people through their journey to find their own place in the world. I don’t feel it’s a government or any organization’s role to decide for someone who they should be.”
Another question asked to the candidates was about how Indigenous representation will be shown moving forward with the revitalization of Airdrie's downtown.
Tina Petrow said at the City level, there has to be an Indigenous liaison or consultant.
“These conversations need to happen with people who have lived and breathed this,” she said. “As we move forward with the downtown revitalization, it is valuable to have that input with the City of Airdrie and move forward to a path that suits everybody.”
Mayor candidate Allan Hunter – who was admonished by the host throughout the event for acting bizarrely, such as wearing an “anonymous” mask and strumming his guitar at certain moments – said participation is one thing that can be done to support Indigenous relationships.
“Buying Indigenous art, communication, and learning to know what they would like to see,” he said. “We need to ask more questions. If we listen, we are going to learn, which will include people.”
Candidate Jaclyn Dorchak said what can be put into place tangibly right now will be important.
“As superficial as some of these things may seem to the outside world, every little step matters and every little step builds upon itself,” she said.
Another question that came in through the livestream was about how candidates could minimize barriers to ensure Indigenous art and culture are being showcased in the community.
Candidate Lore Perez said sitting down and listening to the needs of Indigenous Peoples is crucial in understanding what would work for them.
“How can we support them?” she said. “I love the idea of opening up more markets or having a civic centre that people have been asking for so they can have space there as well.
“We need to ask the question of, do they need more events?”
Perez mentioned when she first came to Canada from Mexico, her father wanted her to send him an Indigenous talking stick. She said a trip to Banff was needed in order to find one.
“We need to understand what the barriers are so we can try to help them,” she said.
Mayor candidate Lindsey Coyle said she doesn’t know what the barriers are, but she would like to know to help better understand how she could help.
“Maybe it comes down to having more of a data infrastructure for people who are putting on markets, so these invitations are sent,” she said. “Truly I need to understand more what the barriers are for us to look at facilitating or helping in that area.”
Candidate Heather Spearman said she is on a learning journey to help understand what needs to be done so she can be the best ally she can be to the Indigenous community.
“It is really important that we shut up and listen,” she said. “The way that we do that is by starting a reconciliation committee for Airdrie, [and] having at least 50 per cent of that made up of Indigenous Peoples so that their voices can be heard, and have a liaison as well.”
She said once that is done, there needs to be some diversity and inclusion training to be able to be better communities and allies to minorities in the city.
“We need to allow people to tell their stories,” she said. “We need to do the heavy lifting. We need to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk as well.”
To watch the full forum and hear from all candidates, visit bit.ly/3lz3SZ