Edmonton aims to end racism, poverty and be the safest city in Canada by 2030 with new strategy

The City of Edmonton is proposing to eliminate racism, repair relationships with Indigenous people, prevent crime, and end poverty in a community safety and well being strategy released Wednesday. 

New plan is about looking at public safety in a 21st-century context, Coun. Sarah Hamilton says

Edmonton's new community safety and well-being strategy aims to make the city the safest in Canada by 2030 (Cort Sloan/CBC)

The City of Edmonton's new safety plan may be its most ambitious. 

It's proposing to eliminate racism, repair relationships with Indigenous people, prevent crime, and end poverty.

Those are five of the seven pillars outlined in the new community safety and well-being strategy released by city administration Wednesday. 

Rounding out the seven, the city aims to offer equitable programs and services that make it inviting for everyone to participate and create safer and more inclusive spaces in its facilities. 

It also aims to make Edmonton the safest city in Canada by 2030.

Andre Corbould, the city manager, admitted the strategy is aspirational. 

"They are lofty goals," Corbould said during a news conference. "I think the way we achieve them is by being very clear on what the intended outcomes are." 

City staff consulted 80 community groups to prepare the strategy, Corbould said, including the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, the Edmonton 2 Spirit Society, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Edmonton Public Library. 

For the plan, administration is asking council to approve funding in 2022 in several areas: $1.5 million for micro grants for community non-profits, $1 million for an Indigenous-led shelter, $1 million for extreme weather response and $1.5 million toward the integrated call and dispatch centre. 

Coun. Keren Tang said she expects changing established norms will be complex. 

"I think this is the first time we've really brought it together, which does make it lofty, which makes it very extremely ambitious, overwhelming, daunting — all of that," Tang said. "But that's the nature of systemic work." 

The proposed strategies are up for scrutiny at council's community and public services committee May 16. 

Council direction

Coun. Sarah Hamilton noted that the city has been working on many initiatives over the years, such as ending poverty and homelessness, and curbing crime.

But the new strategy brings it together under one umbrella.

"It's really, I think, fundamentally about looking at public safety in a 21st-century context," Hamilton said in an interview Wednesday. "It's about folding in all of the different notions of safety." 

Hamilton proposed in July 2020 that Edmonton should aspire to change its reputation as being a dangerous city and having one of the worst crime severity indexes. 

In summer 2020, council agreed to create a task force on community safety and well being, after it heard from about 100 people at a special public hearing focused on the role of police in Edmonton. 

The city's strategy incorporates 14 recommendations presented by the task force in March 2021. 

Now, the new strategy sets the tone for a way forward, Hamilton said. 

"I think it gives us that opportunity to take back the narrative on what our city can be and how the best part— our sense of collaboration, our sense of inclusion — can help us overcome something that I think previous generations have described as inescapable and inevitable."

Measuring progress

To measure how the city is progressing with the seven pillars, Corbould said administration will create a dashboard where it will post aggregate scores. 

Collecting data will be imperative, Corbould said. 

"We know that racist incidents in the city of Edmonton are heavily underreported and we need to find better ways of reporting them and understand what's happening in our community," he said. "Even the comfort of people to report incidents like that is an important measurement that we need to work on." 

Corbould anticipates the measuring tool will be ready by the end of the year. 

"This is only the start of a broader commitment, as efforts to become more compassionate and inclusive will be ongoing."