Tofino’s municipal council has made a public pledge to “oppose racism and hate in all its forms.”
The pledge was spurred by a #DifferentTogether campaign launched by B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Janet Austin to combat racial tensions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This pledge was initially crafted in a response to race-based discrimination and violence directed at BC’s East Asian population, but I do feel that it’s grown in salience as the intervening weeks have passed and some in Tofino have begun to tune in to a conversation around racism and systemic violence that’s been going on for a long time,” explained Coun. Andrea McQuade who brought the motion to council’s June 9 regular meeting. McQuade’s motion had been published on the meeting’s agenda, which was released on June 4, prior to anti-racism demonstrations that marched through Tofino on June. 8 and Ucluelet on June 7.
“I don’t think that we often bring these pledges forward as a council and I understand why; they can look like they pertain little to the fire, sewer and water that we’re tasked to deal with and they can run the risk of sounding like lip service,” McQuade said. “I’m bringing forward this motion today because I do believe that it has the capability to be more.”
She said the town’s local government deals with “the basic nuts and bolts” of running a community, citing infrastructure, land use and transportation decisions and suggested council should give clear focus to building a community that’s “at least as resilient as our infrastructure.”
“To take a pledge to oppose racism and to speak up isn’t lip service,” she said. “It’s to be actively involved in the anti-racist work of building resilient community with everyone in it and with each decision we make here about transportation, about affordable housing and about fire, sewer and water. I think that this is an opportunity to be accountable and to think critically about moving forward with integrity and doing better in all of our decisions.”
Council unanimously endorsed the pledge, though Coun. Al Anderson suggested a more inclusive motion would be needed in the near future.
“Not to detract or take away from the motion, but I think this motion doesn’t capture all marginalized communities,” Anderson said. “It’s addressing specifically race and ethnicity, which is certainly timely and very thoughtful but, I think, we need to go further and bring another motion forward to address some communities that may be missed in this motion.”
Mayor Josie Osborne noted Tofino’s council has not made a habit of declaring public pledges, but suggested that McQuade’s motion was an important step.
“I look forward to seeing what comes of this and I think there’s more actions to be taken by the District of Tofino and by this council and I think we will see them in the coming weeks, months and years,” she said.