INNISFAIL – Town council held an emergency meeting today (June 9) and unanimously agreed to support an anti-racism rally in Innisfail this coming weekend.
Mayor Jim Romane said he and Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, called all members of council, including newly elected member Don Harrison, to discuss the local anti-racism issue that has triggered national headlines, with many social media comments seriously questioning the town’s claimed tolerance and acceptance towards African Canadians and other minorities.
Romane said the intent of the resolution is to move forward to support the rally and to show everyone that town council was behind the initiative of Brittany Bovey, the organizer behind the June 13 anti-racism rally, and to bring the racism issue to the forefront for a community-wide discussion, and show everyone across Alberta and Canada that Innisfail is not a racist community.
“That is the whole intent, absolutely,” said Romane.
Last weekend, Bovey announced she was postponing her planned Black Lives Matter-themed rally on June 13 at the green space by NoFrills due to online protest, some of it vicious racist commentary.
Bovey said she was going to try to organize a larger one that would include all minorities. She could not be immediately reached for comment today on town council’s endorsement for her to hold the rally this coming weekend.
“We support it on the basis that we don’t want to be a racist community and it is going to be our goal to not be a racist community,” said Romane. “We passed a resolution at that special meeting to clarify that and will be starting dialogue with people in the community and get to the bottom of these racism claims and see what we can do to reverse those situations.
“I don’t know. It is going to be a tough battle. There is a certain amount of racism in every community. I don’t think Innisfail is probably any worse than any other small town but there is obviously some that has (been) brought to someone’s attention,” said Romane, conceding he made a recent mistake of stating publicly he wasn’t aware of any longstanding racism. “It makes me look like a dummy now,” said the mayor.
However, he emphasized racism in the community has never been brought to his attention during more than two decades on town council.
Romane added he has lived in Innisfail for more than 40 years and has not on a personal level experienced any type of racism in the community, “other than the odd comment, off-the-cuff comments from people.”
He noted a former African-Canadian high school educator in the community who was “highly respected” by Innisfailians. Romane added that he and his wife once had an African-Canadian housekeeper.
“We loved her. She would spend Christmas with us,” said Romane.