The Importance of Dignity - Dignity Day, Oct. 18

A guest post from the John Humphrey Centre and the Self Advocacy Federation.

In response to the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty, the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights (JHC) brought together young Edmontonians to provide direct input into EndPovertyEdmonton strategy. With three out of ten Edmontonians living in poverty being children, JHC felt it was essential that in the process of creating a plan for the City of Edmonton, the voice of children and youth needed to be included.

In 2014, the Youth Action Project recommended to the city that a larger strategy of community education and engagement around issues of dignity and poverty were needed to truly address stigmatization and marginalization.  We identified Global Dignity Day (3rd Wednesday of October every year) as an important opportunity to cultivate conversations on dignity and human rights.  EndPovertyEdmonton, The John Humphrey Centre and community partners like the Self Advocacy Federation (SAF) host an annual event to honour stories of dignity through art and dialogue. 

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We try to respond to conversations and issues we hear in the community, so this year we decided to focus on the dignity and voices of those within institutions, whether the prison system, long term care facility, child welfare or other institutionalized experiences.  Individuals and communities impacted by these systems are often underrepresented in our conversations and public spaces and it is vital that we make room for these important perspectives and stories.  This year’s event will combine art showcases, performance, advocacy learning circles and a film and panel discussion on dignity within prisons.

Here's what SAF community member Amy has to say about dignity...

 

Disabling the Abled

By Amy A. Park

How would it feel if you were cut off from your friends and family? How would it feel to be seen as such a burden on society that you have to be locked away somewhere? How would it feel if your life consisted of staring out a window; wishing, wanting to be out doing things that normal people were doing? And how would it feel to be stripped of your right to choose?

Would it feel lonely? Sad? Miserable? Disabling?

Ask any person with a disability that has lived in an institution and they will tell you that all of the above is accurate. Institutions are like prisons. Residents are forced to do free labour inside and outside of the institution. In many cases people are treated horribly by the staff. And the hallways are so bleak, so lacking of any kind of cheerfulness that it makes you wonder how someone wouldn’t get depressed being in there.

Institutions, in the past, have taken away people’s futures. Have taken away any chance of them being able to start a family, have kids of their own. Sterilization, thankfully, no longer exists. But the sad reality of it is it wasn’t very long ago that it DID exist. It wasn’t very long ago that a doctor had a legal right to choose a person with a disability’s future.

There’s a word that I absolutely hate, the word disabled. When I hear that word it makes me think of institutions and what they do to people with disabilities. The definition of the word disabled is to make it no longer work. The idea that something is broken, irreparable, is to say it’s disabled.

What do institutions do to people with disabilities? They disable them. This idea that they are somehow broken and therefore are useless. The idea that they cannot be fixed so they shouldn’t be able to live as a member of society.

Well I have a disability and I am not broken. I don’t need to be fixed. And neither does anyone else with a disability. Which is why the Day of Dignity is so important. Because no matter who you are, no matter your gender, your race, if you have limitations, we all deserve to be treated with dignity. Some people with disabilities have been disabled by institutions and it is not ok. People with disabilities deserve to live as a valued, respected, dignified member of society. They deserve the same opportunities, chances, triumphs, failures as any other human being on the planet.

So we need to stop trying to fix people that are not broken.

We need to stop disabling the abled.

 

 
 

For more information on Day of Dignity, please visit: https://www.jhcentre.org/yeg-peace-week/

 
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Please note –the views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of EndPovertyEdmonton.

 

EndPovertyEdmonton is looking for an Engagement Assistant!

Are you looking to help support the work to end poverty in Edmonton? 

EndPovertyEdmonton is hiring an Engagement Assistant. The successful candidate will play a key role to support the strategy to end poverty in Edmonton within a generation and advance a vision of shared prosperity for all. 

This position will report to and work closely with the Executive Director and support the Secretariat and the community work to end poverty. Click here for the job description

This position will primarily be located at the EndPovertyEdmonton office in the United Way (15132 Stony Plain Road). Please send a cover letter and resume to humanresources@endpovertyedmonton.ca by October 13th. 

We are all Treaty People: Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day, Aug 18

2016 Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day included EPE Stewardship Roundtable Member MP Randy Boissonnault

2016 Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day included EPE Stewardship Roundtable Member MP Randy Boissonnault

Friday is Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day! 

It was established by the City of Edmonton and the Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations in 2013 following the signing of Memorandum of Cooperation and Dialogue between the City and the Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations in 2012. The day also serves to recognize and celebrate Treaty No.6 between the Plains, Wood Cree, Nakota, Saulteaux and Dene people and the British Crown at Fort Carlton on August 23, 1876.

Edmonton, known as Amiskwaciwâskahikan in Cree, which means ‘Beaver Hills House’, was founded on Treaty No. 6 Territory. Thus the day commemorates the city’s connection with the First peoples of this land and it symbolizes a commitment to collaboration, respectful dialogue and shared opportunities. Indeed, as Edmonton Mayor and honorary member of EPE’s Stewardship Roundtable Don Iveson has pointed out, all Edmontonians can be considered Treaty people.

Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day also aligns with EndPovertyEdmonton’s work towards Reconciliation with First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. This includes a number of current and planned actions listed under the theme “Towards True Reconciliation” in our Road Map, as well as the guidance and input contributed by EPE’s Indigenous Circle and its co-chairs, Shannon Hebden and Lloyd Cardinal.

On Friday at 9:00 am, Mayor Don Iveson will invite Dr. J. Wilton Littlechild, the Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, and the Chiefs of all 17 Treaty No. 6 First Nations, to City Hall for a traditional ceremony, and the raising of the Treaty No. 6 Flag in Sir Winston Churchill Square.

Winners of the Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day Art Contest, which reflect the Treaty theme “As long as the sun shines, the waters flow, and the grass grows” will also be announced.  Fort Edmonton will also mark the occasion with a number of celebratory and historic events over the weekend.  The event is open to the public, so we hope to see you there!

EndPovertyEdmonton is looking for a Manager of Community Engagement!

Are you looking to help lead change to end poverty in Edmonton? 

EndPovertyEdmonton is building a Secretariat to support Executive Director Andrea Burkhart with our next position: Manager of Community Engagement. The successful candidate will play a key management role in reaching out to stakeholders, organizations and the community in general to move Edmonton towards a poverty-free future. 

This position will report to and work closely with the Executive Director and support business and strategic planning at EndPovertyEdmonton. Click here for the job description

This position will primarily be located at the EndPovertyEdmonton office in the United Way (15132 Stony Plain Road). Please send a cover letter and resume to humanresources@endpovertyedmonton.ca by August 23rd. 

Treaty 6 and Edmonton welcomed the World Indigenous Nations Games!

The first week of July 2017 was a thrilling one for me as I was seconded to the 2nd World Indigenous Nations (WIN) Games as the International Coordinator. I split my time between Canada Place, the Enoch Cree First Nation and Mascwacis to welcome Indigenous athletes from across Canada and around the world

2nd World Indigenous Nations Games Opening Ceremonies at Bear Park, Mascwacis

2nd World Indigenous Nations Games Opening Ceremonies at Bear Park, Mascwacis

To say it was an amazing experience would be an understatement. It was powerful and profound to see hundreds of delegates from two dozen countries come together in celebration of themselves and each other as Indigenous peoples through sport.

Treaty 6 Grand Chief and WIN Games Ambassador J. Wilton Littlechild, who has dedicated 40-plus years towards using sports for empowerment, spoke at the Opening Ceremonies in Bear Park about the power of sports as a human right for all. “This is a celebration about life: for youth to be proud of their culture, to choose life over other options,” he said.

Marcos Terena, the founder of the first Games in Palmas, Brazil in 2015, brought soil from his home territory to share with Treaty 6, and the Mayor of Palmas gave Chief Littlechild a baton carved out of natural Brazilian wood. Chief Billy Morin added eagle feathers to represent Canada and it will continue to grow as these Games travel to different countries in the future (Columbia appears to be the heavy favourite as the 2019 host).

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett spoke about Reconciliation as more than just words and promises, while provincial Indigenous Affairs Minister Richard Feehan highlighted what Alberta is doing to ensure clean water and an expanded, Indigenous-focused educational curriculum. Eliminating racism is one of the Gamechangers for EndPovertyEdmonton, as well as a major priority for the City of Edmonton, allowing for synergies between these Games and longer term, meaningful work on Treaty 6 Territory.

There were singers and musicians including Asani, the Logan Alexis drummers, a young local girl from Enoch who sang the national anthem in Cree and an amazing Russian throat singer from Yakutia. It all finished with an enormous round dance. Anyone who missed it can watch it all again at the Aboriginal People’s Television Network website, APTN.ca.

Saniya from Yakutsk, Russia thrilled the crowd with her throat-singing

Saniya from Yakutsk, Russia thrilled the crowd with her throat-singing

Then the Games began! Each day started with prayers, drumming and a sunrise ceremony followed by a mix of mainstream sports like soccer and basketball along with traditional ones such as spear-throwing, log carrying, archery and sand races. Each evening at Kitaskinaw School, where most athletes resided, settled into demonstration Games such as Dene hand games and the high kick from Northwest Territories. There was also a series of conferences and knowledge exchanges led by foreign dignitaries like Dr. Alexandra Grigorieva from the Yurta Mira association in Yakutsk, Russia and Master’s student Jocabed Solano from Panama, who spoke about the universal appeal of “the Grandmother’s Song” to local communities.

With canoeing at Shalom Lake in the Alexis First Nation, soccer at Manluk Industries field in Wetaskiwin and events at Enoch’s sand pits and elsewhere, the distances made it a challenge for events to start on time. Coordination was another hurdle, as was the uncharacteristically blistering heat.

However, what the Games lacked organizationally was more than made up for by a small army of tireless volunteers, who fed, watered, and transported hundreds of athletes, delegates and fans across the six First Nations around Edmonton (Enoch, Alexis & the 4 First Nations of Mascwacis: Louis Bull, Ermenskin, Samson and Montana Cree). And despite the lack of sleep by the mostly female Indigenous Secretariat and organizing committees, the Games succeeded in getting everyone where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.

Team Panama was represented by 5 Indigenous nations, including the Kuna people

Team Panama was represented by 5 Indigenous nations, including the Kuna people

Being flexible, Whetu Rangihaeta from New Zealand said, was key to enjoying the events. It also allowed the Games to incorporate local additions from the communities, including the absolutely thrilling Indian Relay at the Panee Agrium, where a rider races across the track on one horse, only to disembark and jump on to the next one and again race around the course. The Relay is more common in Southern Alberta and the U.S. Midwest, which meant something new to see for the local community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

Atilano Flaco from Panama was one of the WIN Games star athletes

Atilano Flaco from Panama was one of the WIN Games star athletes

Each international team had its own impact on the Games. Paraguay brought a fierce determination to win, cruising to victory in all of its soccer games, while Panama was easily the fan favourite with the boisterous cheering of their 65 delegates. New Zealand won several medallions but fans hung around them eager to see them perform the famous Haka dance.

Bashar Dyab from Syria and Team Colombia celebrate the start of the WIN Games

Bashar Dyab from Syria and Team Colombia celebrate the start of the WIN Games

Being flexible also allowed a team of Syrian refugee youth to play a 30-minute friendly soccer game with Team Paraguay. The Syrian boys were also invited as honoured guests at the Enoch Arbor for that community’s annual powwow. Like all the other teams, they walked into an amazing environment with a rousing reception. What a great way to build bridges between newcomers and the Indigenous community!

Whetu Rangihaeta from New Zealand shows me the Maori way of saying hello!

Whetu Rangihaeta from New Zealand shows me the Maori way of saying hello!

For me personally, this was a tremendously inspirational event, and one with significant lessons on being adaptable at a moment’s notice, cross-cultural communication, establishing relationships through protocol & celebration as well as flexible decision making. By the end of the day, hugs and high-fives were exchanged all around between new friends practicing old traditions, ensuring this event will live on for the thousands who participated or witnessed it.

 

*Sam Singh is a Strategic Planner with End Poverty Edmonton, who was seconded to the WIN games, which wrapped up this past weekend.

Meet EndPovertyEdmonton's Executive Director Andrea Burkhart!

From its inception, collaboration has been a key element of EndPovertyEdmonton, an approach that EPE’s new executive director Andrea Burkhart appreciates. “I have seen first-hand the impact that occurs when people work together towards a common goal” says Burkhart, who comes to EPE after founding and directing the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking, or ACT Alberta. Since 2010, ACT Alberta has addressed a complex crime and human rights issue through collaboration and coordination with many community stakeholders: “Cross sectoral collaboration builds community, changes systems, and literally saves lives. Edmonton has a long history and culture of collaboration which will allow this community to eliminate poverty in a generation.”

In transitioning from ACT Alberta to EPE, Burkhart sees a lot of parallels.  Poverty, inequality, and discrimination have all been identified in recent research as root causes of human trafficking in Edmonton.  “As a community, when we move upstream to address poverty, the impact is profound, far reaching, and long term” says Burkhart, explaining what sparked her interest in EPE.

Working with others is the name of the game for EPE.  EndPovertyEdmonton is grounded in years of community work and has been built on the input of thousands of Edmontonians, including experts, leaders, people with lived experience, and concerned community members.  In addition to EPE co-chairs Bishop Jane Alexander and and Dr. Jeffrey Bisanz, Andrea will continue building and strengthening relationships with many of EPE’s community partners, including the 40+ organizations EPE is strategically aligned with. 

EPE’s new office space will be at the United Way, which is one of EPE’s key partners, alongside the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Community Foundation.  EPE’s 5 Year Plan, known as the Road Map, contains 35 distinct, tangible actions to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty for thousands of Edmontonians.  Andrea’s focus at EPE includes prioritizing reconciliation, collaboration, engaging Edmontonians, and measuring impact.

“Like many Edmontonians, I balance my civic pride with the knowledge that we can – and must – do better on issues like poverty, inequality, and discrimination” says Burkhart.  “I am proud to live in a place where we all matter to each other. I look forward to learning, growing, and serving EPE and this great community as together we eliminate poverty in a generation.”

 

Using Design Thinking to improve parental involvement with early childhood development programs

Can design improve early childhood development in a community and help lower poverty levels? That’s the question that e4c, Panorama Innovation and Barnraise participants set out to answer during their two day design challenge at the BarnRaise Edmonton event that took place from March 17-19, 2017 in Edmonton, Canada.

The challenge at hand was to help e4c increase parent participation in their early child development programs in order to help reduce the effects and impact of poverty.

“One out of every five Edmonton children – nearly 33,000 – is living in poverty. Just over one in three Edmonton children who live in a lone-parent family live in poverty," according to the 2014 "A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton" report from the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

This was the first time e4c had taken a design thinking approach to solving a community problem. Improving parent participation was identified as the first step to helping reduce the effects of poverty, but parents in the community were not taking as active a role as was needed to make this happen. The Barnraise event and Panorama Innovation’s facilitation helped identify areas where improvements could be made using design as the catalyst to that change. The verdict? It was a success.

While solving any problem of this magnitude will take time and additional resources, e4c learned a lot in the process and they were happy with the outcomes. Planning and Evaluation Manager Deshay Wachilonga was encouraged by the momentum that was started and believes they have come away with a process and ideas they can use going forward.

“The design approach introduced us to interesting ways of breaking down the problem into subject areas that could be comprehensively explored and then brought back together into one meaningful and productive discussion.” - Deshay Wachilonga, Planning and Evaluation Manager, e4c

There were several early concepts identified by the team during the Barnraise event:

  1. Quick Connect - Develop a set of tools for facilitators and parents to quickly learn about one another.

  2. Creating an “I Belong” Environment - Developing a sense of belonging through physical and experiential elements.

  3. Alumni Activation - Leveraging existing alumni to create ambassadors for the e4c program and connecting alumni with current parents in the program.

By taking a design thinking approach to these opportunity areas, BarnRaise participants were able to leverage creativity, along with theory and practice of design to create solutions for the community.

They were also able to deliver some physical solutions. Tangible prototypes of suggested deliverables, such as welcome boxes for new parents coming into the program, were created by the design teams. There was also lively discussion groups, group work, and facilitation that brought all the elements together to achieve the greater goal.

“When parents and children feel like they belong to a group, they are more likely to be engaged and less likely to drop off, thereby participating to a greater capacity and referring the program to others.” - Kelly Costello, Panorama Innovation

Part of the success of any new process is the willingness of participants to use the process going forward. According to Wachilonga, e4c will be using the design process for another project in the near future and they are excited to see continued development in their fight to end poverty in Edmonton, Canada.

To learn more about e4c and get in touch please visit: e4calberta.org

To learn more about Panorama Innovation and get in touch please visit: panoramainnovation.com

To learn more about BarnRaise Edmonton and get in touch please visit: id.iit.edu/barnraiseedm17

Andrea Burkhart becomes first Executive Director of EndPovertyEdmonton!

EndPovertyEdmonton Co Chairs Dr. Jeff Bisanz and Bishop Jane Alexander are pleased to announce that Ms. Andrea Burkhart will join EndPovertyEdmonton in June 2017 as its inaugural Executive Director.

Ms Burkhart has spent the last six years as founding Executive Director of ACTAlberta, the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta Association. In this role, she successfully launched, grew and led the development of a robust community organization dedicated to advancing collaboration and partnership to address the complex issue of human trafficking.

 “Andrea Burkhart impressed us with her passion for human rights, her knowledge about collective impact and poverty, and her adaptive, bridge-building approach to leadership” said Dr. Jeff Bisanz, “We feel confident she will work collaboratively and purposefully with the new EndPovertyEdmonton groups - and our many community allies and partners - to advance our immediate goals and to eliminate poverty in our city within a generation.”

Asked about her hopes and visions for this role, Ms. Burkhart said, “I am honoured to work with the visionary community leaders of EndPovertyEdmonton. Tackling poverty is big work. The political will, community support and appetite for collaboration mean Edmonton is ready to move the needle and I am eager to serve in this capacity.”

Andrea Burkhart will take the helm at EndPovertyEdmonton on June 6, 2017. She will be working out of the United Way Alberta Capital Region offices at 15132 Stony Plain Road, as that agency is generously providing office space and is acting as fiscal agent for EndPovertyEdmonton.

EndPovertyEdmonton visits Hamilton for the Cities Reducing Poverty Conference

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The EndPovertyEdmonton team visited Hamilton recently for the “Cities Reducing Poverty: When Business is Engaged” summit, hosted by the Tamarack Institute’s Vibrant Communities Canada.

We were joined by over 300 colleagues tackling poverty at the municipal, provincial, federal and non-governmental levels across the country. However, the main emphasis of the conference was about engaging business effectively.  This included a keynote speech by Michael McCain on a new initiative to reduce food waste and another address by Hamilton businessman Mark Chamberlain, who is the past chair of Hamilton’s Poverty Reduction Roundtable.  Referencing major strides made towards public health over the years, he asked the audience “Are we trying to solve the right problem?” when it comes to poverty. He and others at the conference implied that incremental change may be slow and frustrating but sometimes it may be the most effective way to have an impact on poverty.  

Hamilton was a fitting host city, given that its mayor, Fred Eisenberger, had just spearheaded a $50 million plan to tackle housing and poverty over 10 years. Other cities making major strides included Victoria, B.C. with its new Social Procurement Plan and St. Catherines, ON, which is now in the process of adopting a “compassionate city” strategy.

Topics at the summit included how to encourage businesses to pay a living wage, promoting universal basic income and engaging those with lived experience through innovative programs such as Hamilton’s “Speakers’ Bureau”.

The Hamilton conference followed up on last year’s poverty reduction summit in Edmonton, which included a keynote by Mayor Don Iveson.  This year, the Edmonton contingent was busy sharing the EndPovertyEdmonton story.  The EPE team held a workshop session on the EndPovertyEdmonton journey, with a special emphasis on the human rights & reconciliation approach that grounds our work while Bishop Jane Alexander provided consultation on the National Poverty Strategy with Member of Parliament Adam Vaughan, the Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Urban Affairs.  Sandra Huculak shared how Alberta Treasury Branch is working with Boyle Street Services to engage women in financial empowerment with its pioneering EmpowerU initiative while the Edmonton Community Foundation shared its strategy for creating a Community Development Corporation.

The team left Hamilton recharged and inspired by the stories of colleagues across the country engaged in the same work, while happy to share the emerging EndPovertyEdmonton story.

End Poverty Community Publications Video Launch

On February 9th, EndPovertyEdmonton kicked off its first year as a community driven collective for change! more than 100 members of the public, including members of the Task Force, the 5 Community Tables and others who helped shape a progressive, inclusive and visionary Strategy to end poverty in a generation assembled at the Anglican Diocese in downtown Edmonton. Representatives from Edmonton’s Indigenous, faith and non-profit sectors came together with municipal and provincial government officials to mark the launch of two community publications: the Edmonton Social Planning Council’s Profile of Poverty in Edmonton 2017 Update and the Action Guide for Edmonton Religious and Spiritual Communities, produced in partnership by the Anglican Foundation, the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative and EndPovertyEdmonton. Both publications underlined the launch of the Five Year Plan: a set of 35 concrete, tangible actions designed to lift 10,000 people out of poverty.