Wetaskiwin spearheads regional community safety and wellbeing approachIf COVID has taught us anything, it’s the wisdom of working together to solve shared issues. From distilleries making hand sanitizer to fast food chains distributing masks, there was an abundance of collaboration and creative thinking on how to help protect each other during the pandemic.
Community safety and wellbeing is a shared issue, and the challenges faced by Wetaskiwin and area are not black and white—they are nuanced and very complex. Addressing and overcoming these challenges will require time, open and respectful dialogue, and ongoing inter-agency collaboration. Pointing fingers and placing blame will only destroy relationships and decimate our community’s willingness to work together in finding solutions.
In the interests of open and respectful dialogue, let us be frank: as a municipal organization, we have been accused of abandoning our vulnerable population, racism, and perpetuating trauma. And yet—despite these accusations—we continue to work with many organizations and agencies in navigating the community safety and wellness challenges faced by our City and region. We continue to meet frequently with the Cree Nations of Maskwacis to build stronger relationships as we simultaneously confront our own privilege and colonial narratives. We continue to have the difficult conversations required to make good on our community’s vision of a future where we all thrive together.
This is why we have spearheaded a regional Community Safety and Wellbeing Steering Committee which includes representation from the City of Wetaskiwin and partner agencies, the County of Wetaskiwin, and Maskwacis. This steering committee will oversee many other important elements to a community’s well-being, including the Guiding Coalition on Homelessness, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, and more. Building capacity through regional collaboration results in resource-sharing—drastically improving the likelihood of our region successfully overcoming the challenges plaguing us all today.
As a municipality, we have a responsibility to all our citizens and must consider the needs of our entire community. This includes vulnerable humans and those disproportionately impacted by our society’s current socio-economic challenges. Council’s decision to terminate the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub’s lease for the Civic Building was incredibly difficult to make. Collectively, Council and The Open Door agreed that the emergency shelter was a band-aid solution, and that a permanent recovery facility that addresses the community's severe mental health and addictions issues needed to be established (citation Feb. 2020). It was never a question of if the Integrated Response Hub would move to a different location, but when. This has been understood and agreed to by all stakeholders since the beginning. To assert otherwise is neither honest nor helpful in achieving a beneficial outcome.
Wetaskiwin is the City we share, and we have not wavered in our commitment to influence the success of social support programs through collaboration with local agencies and strategic policy development. Every day counts, and we welcome everyone to participate in the search for a balanced solution. Attacking each other not only wastes valuable time and energy, but also perpetuates existing trauma—prolonging the cycle of abuse we are working hard to address.
We can do better than that, Wetaskiwin. Are you on board? If so, visit www.wetaskiwin.ca/steeringcommittee for more information.