Thursday, 9 November 2006

Inclusive cities project aims to have outcomes federal government can apply

Wednesday, October 27, 2004 -
Roderick Benns
A national inclusion initiative encompassing five cities across Canada is aiming to find solutions for social exclusion that all communities can benefit from.

The aim, says Christa Freiler, national co-ordinator for Inclusive Cities Canada, will be to enhance social inclusion across Canada. "We’re keen to make social inclusion something the federal government can apply. The government has talked a lot about social inclusion, but I don’t think they have applied it to the community sector well" yet, she says. The project began last November and is now at the stage where the information has to be studied. The initiative grew out of work accomplished by the Laidlaw Foundation and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The project involved the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto embarking on a collaborative effort with four other social planning partners across Canada, as well as the Federation. The federal government’s social development ministry has been providing multi-year core funding, with supplementary start-up funds from the Laidlaw Foundation. The initiative has a major focus on children, families and youth, particularly those from diverse and vulnerable populations, according to the project overview. The five cities involved in the initiative are Vancouver/North Vancouver, Edmonton, Burlington, Toronto and Saint John. Social development and planning councils are facilitators in all five cases. Community focus groups examined people’s perceptions of the inclusiveness of their city and communities. Such questions as "what would give them a sense of belonging and recognition?" "What would have to change in the way that they experience life in the community and larger society?" were asked, according to the project overview. Freiler says she believes the inclusion initiative is necessary to "sensitize institutions and government to the fact that there are people who are not able to participate as valued members of communities." Although official recommendations from the inclusive cities initiative will not be made available until January next year, the national co-ordinator of the project says there are some likely areas of focus that will emerge. She offers three examples. "I think we can expect, in most cases, recommendations on more inclusive models of policing" in communities, she says. "There are many instances where youth and others would be better served with a more inclusive police force." Freiler says recommendations can also be expected around developing more civic engagement initiatives, particularly for youth. And, finally, she says recommendations will likely be forthcoming on more inclusive models of community services. Freiler says it will be important for the project to address prevention as well as fixes. "We have to be better able to identify the conditions that have to exist at the core to make sure people don’t get excluded in the first place," she explains. Civic panels will produce the recommendations early in 2005 including a description of what works and what will not work. Then, a cross-Canada report will be the focus of a national symposium in April to develop and promote policies to strengthen social infrastructure and build inclusive cities across the country. Freiler says once the key findings and recommendations are made, the information will go back to the original focus groups across Canada for input story from

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