Today, we launch an online, five-part series on racism in Innisfail.
It could just as easily be any town in the region but we focus on Innisfail because this community was thrust into national attention last June over a young woman’s desire for an anti-racism rally to trigger needed conversation in the community.
Brittany Bovey’s intention was only to have a discussion, not controversy like what is still raging south of the 49th.
However, she was viciously bullied online with its contents spilling out into the public at large. Suddenly all this young woman’s good intentions were twisted out of proportion. Ugliness set it. Out-of-town newspapers wrote about it. Mayor Jim Romane, a fine a man deep down as you could ever know, by his own admission made ill informed comments. Romane apologized. Bovey’s rally went on peacefully, but ugliness remained lurking in the shadows.
Still, the hardliners hold on to bizarre notions that racism does not exist, that it somehow is only a mischievous left-wing phenomena designed to embrace socialism.
Here we are three months later. Many other towns in Central Alberta have since hosted their own anti-racism rallies but none have felt the sting of contempt and gone under the microscope Innisfail has.
And now this town, the heartland of Alberta’s long history of conservative values, is asked to probe deep within itself, starting with the town, which subsequently passed its own anti-racism bylaw.
There is also the determined work by Innisfail’s award-winning Welcoming & Inclusive Community Committee that is now focusing on racism, and most importantly, solutions for the community.
Over the next few weeks we present to you five voices, ones overlooked far too long but now courageously serving up stories of pain and isolation. However, there is also ultimate triumph.
These stories on racism are gifts to the community. Innisfail only needs to embrace them.
Johnnie Bachusky is an editor with The Albertan.