Thoughts on inclusion, diversity, and anti racism in Kamloops...

Whenever I think about diversity and inclusion in Kamloops, my mind first goes to our amazing history of embracing diversity. I think about community leaders like John Fremont Smith, Len Marchand, and Peter Wing. I think about my Dad driving us to elementary school and little Arjun (I was once) almost always noting there was street we passed called “Singh Street”. I think about this community largely very much embraced my immigrant parents and their children. 
 
I know, however, my thinking needs to try to engage with the whole picture. And there is definitely racism and discrimination in our community. There is systemic racism in some of our most powerful institutions. I’ve lived these experiences somewhat but I know many many people who have experienced racism and discrimination much more that I. The recent global spotlight on racism, after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, has brought a lot of strong important emotions to the centre of public conversations - anger and joy, fear and hope, desires to fight and desires to collaborate. 
 
In times like these, I seek to converse with good people who are involved, concerned, and who can seek positive outcomes. As a community representative, I feel a responsibility to try to be of service to a more inclusive community. I also think we need to move thoughtfully and empathetically as we decide how we move forward. There are very dark bitter places one can inhabit with these conversations and we need to instead find places of empowerment, hope, and community. Finding the most positive spaces can take time and a lot of energy. And there will be stumbles along the way.
 
Here are some the things I suggest we, as a community, explore doing: 
 
  1. Engage and educate each other: I don’t see a lot of success in the call out culture on an individual level. Yes, we must let people know when we feel they are being racist and / or discriminatory. This may stop the behaviour. But I am not sure it changes the views. This take fostering understanding and relations between different people with different backgrounds. This takes being empathetic to each other. If I say to someone “you are an awful racist”, I am not sure they will immediately agree and change. Their response seems more likely to be “no I am definitely not” and then the walls get built higher against any progress. Can we be empathetic to those who hold racist or discriminatory views? Where would we draw the line here? To me, these are important and interesting questions. I would potentially propose here facilitating public and private conversations between people of different backgrounds to build goodwill and understanding.
     
  2. City council, city staff, the RCMP, and the Fire service should learn more about diversity, inclusion, and racism:  City council has taken Indigenous Awareness training and regularly meets with T’kemlups Te Secwepemc colleagues and friends. I think it would be good to broaden this training to better understand the further diversity of the citizens we serve. This is more for me about being more aware of unconscious racism and discrimination and of systemic bias in practices and processes. And also, it makes it much less hospitable for any overt and conscious discrimination to occur.  This training should be mandatory. 
     
  3. City hall should continue to build a diverse and inclusive workforce:  From time to time, I field concerns that the city workforce does not represent the diversity of Kamloops. I am confident that there is no overt discrimination in city hiring practices and have worked with many people from diverse backgrounds all over city operations. The city does not have hiring quotas and I support an open hiring practice. I’d like to know more about efforts the city can make to outreach to communities that might have some barriers in easily accessing job opportunities. I think we need to ensure all citizens understand how city hiring practices are conducted. And I’d like to know how we are looking at unconscious bias and systemic racism and what we will do to eliminate these if they exist. And we need to be open to good faith feedback on how we can be more inclusive in hiring. 
     
  4. Remain open to ways to do better: This is tough and it will take time. But it has potential to be transformational. I think its so important to stay open minded to changes and not to get complacent with the first or second thing we undertake. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sad to return an electric vehicle. Happy to pick one up.

 

 

 

IMG_20200507_172652
IMG_20200507_172652
I leased an all electric Nissan Leaf in 2016. I had quite a bit of apprehension but wanted to drive a vehicle that emitted no greenhouse gas emissions.

Thanks to great advice and help from people like Glen Cheetham, Jeff Putnam, and Aaron Stone, I joined the world of electric vehicle drivers.

It's been such a fantastic experience. Thanks to my friend and our former Rotary exchange student Joel Pflomm in breaking in the car on the first ride. The car has not only been ghg free in operation, its been really fun to drive (very peppy). It has cost about $15 a month to power and has had very low maintenance expenses.

I've driven all over Kamloops, to Merritt, to Revelstoke (with a couple of passengers (Kathy Sinclair), and to Logan Lake. That's been the one slightly limiting factor of the car - it has a 160km maximum range most of the year, and about 100km in weather below -10 degrees celsius.

My lease was for four years. My wife advised a lease and it was a very smart move. Thank you Marsha Stewart!
In the past months, we have been researching different electric vehicles with a 350 to 400 km range which we could lease for roughly the same cost.

The Covid-19 situation put a bit of a dent in our test drive schedule but we were very happy today to pick up a 2020 Nissan Leaf with a 350km range.

I've appreciated the leadership of Sean Turner at River City Nissan in being one of the very first dealerships in Kamloops to stock electric vehicles and we both have felt well served by a very gentlemanly and friendly sales person in our friend Jonny Walker.

It was bittersweet. Our old car was so awesome. And we are looking for more to more road trips in the new one.

There are an increasing number of great EVs available from reputable local Kamloops dealerships. I'm happy to provide more details about my EV experiences.


Post Trump: Where Do We Go From Here?

Donald Trump signing a stack of executive orders in the presence of standing around kinship group just 80 minutes (19:20 MEZ) after he was sworn in as POTUS

(Have a head cold today. Medicated but wanted to get some thoughts down inspired by Dylan's writings.)

Donald Trump is now President of the United States. As far fetched as this statement seemed 8 months ago (or even 3 months ago), this is reality today. I have been stunned and saddened by many of President Trumps actions. It's not so much that I differ from him greatly on many issues. It's more about the rise of incivility and the disrespect for people who are minorities / marginalized in society. 

The global Women's March inspired a lot of thinking about takeaways post the inauguration and the march.

My thoughtful friend Dylan Houlihan recently wrote on the things he would like to do to be even more welcoming in his own life. (It's great to see Dylan is blogging). I think he has written a really good list. But, I wonder if it's enough. Dylan concentrates his list mostly on what I could call progressive issues and causes. I also support these wholeheartedly. I also wonder if we need to include an appreciation for issues and causes more associated with conservatism. Issues like government regulation and taxation, free trade, and crime / safety?

Taxes is a good example here. As Dylan notes, citizen is a much more expansive (and better, in my opinion) term than taxpayer. But people are concerned about taxes and the ability to pay. People talk to me consistently about high taxes. This is a very authentic and legitimate concern. It doesn't at all mean that these folks don't care about making the community better. It will always be a balancing act.

We don't have to agree with someone to be empathetic. A lot of people who voted for Trump were people who felt left out / disengaged from the economic and political system. In my view, its important to listen across ideologies and viewpoints and to learn from each other. To be in relationship with as many people as possible. If we are truly try to break down some of the partisan divides, we need to embrace the diversity in our communities and countries. We need to do this in a respectful manner.

So, what I would likely add to Dylan's list is the desire to show empathy, learn, and dialogue with others who have very different views. 


Becoming a Rotary Past President...

Rotary_inductions_feb1_2016

 

In July, I completed a one year term as President of my Rotary Club - the Rotary Club of Kamloops. In continuous operation since 1922, our club is one of the oldest community service / fellowship organizations in our community. I don't claim we are better than any of the other 4 Rotary Clubs in operation today in Kamloops. We all do great work. I know our club is built on a very solid foundation and tradition that we continue to try to adapt to meet the changing desires / needs of our members and our community. Often known as the old mans' club, we are no longer, and haven't been for a while. 

When I started as President in July 2015, taking over from my friend Sue Porter, I was certainly nervous. I didn't want to screw anything important up. I found the key club operations have a deep and committed group of members who keep things moving, no matter who occupies the role as President. This was very comforting. I was also excited for the opportunities offered by being President. Within the stable foundations of ongoing club operations, our club gives the President quite a bit of latitude to offer direction. I decided to ask the club to focus on membership growth and also initiated our (perhaps renewed?) participation in the Rotary Club of Ottawa's Adventures in Citizenship program for Canadian youth. These initiatives were very gratifying for me and I really appreciated the support of the club.

The picture above is from one of the very best meetings of the year. It is of a membership induction ceremony at which we inducted three new members - all very dynamic and caring female leaders in Kamloops. We had quite a few of these inductions through out my year. I'm again grateful for the many members who sponsored new members into our club.

In becoming President of the Club, I followed in the footsteps of my father, who served as our President in 1997-98. My father passed away in March 2o15 and I became President in July. In some ways, the time commitment was a bit tough sometime. It, however, also kept me quite busy and gave me an added connection to my father. I grieve my father's passing every day and, in meaningful ways, being President of the Club kept me busy and kept the grief more at bay. It also allowed me another meaningful way to continue to connect to his great legacy of service. 

Rotary Club Presidents typically turn into pumpkins after a one year term. We have a new President now, my friend Devon O'Toole, and he is doing a fabulous job. I want to give him all the support and freedom I can to have a great year. Being a recently minted Past President feels a bit tricky sometimes. You still want to contribute but you don't want to seem like you are stepping on the new Prez's toes. I have enjoyed a bit of a break from full on Rotary responsibility. I have been a member for almost 16 years and have always enjoyed being engaged and involved in the club. So, I am now starting to think about what that means from the vantage point of being a Past President as well as long time member. There are so many amazing opportunities to serve through Rotary.