Time to break up the old boys club Policy change aims to
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TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post A policy change recently approved by Regina city council is a good first step toward achieving diversity and representation on city boards and committees says Jada Yee, an Indigenous-Asian member of the Board of Police Commissioners.“It comes back to what an Indigenous elder told me,” said Yee. “The more I learn about your world and the more you learn about my world, the world that we create for our children will be a better place.”Last week, city council approved the adoption of a new policy statement that emphasizes the need to enhance the inclusive nature of Regina by “celebrating the strength that comes from diversity” and “inviting participation from all” in decision-making.“Nominees will have been recruited through an inclusive, transparent and equitable process and appointments made by City Council will reflect these objectives,” continues the statement.All nominating bodies must follow the policy statement when advertising and recruiting for city council approved appointments to municipal boards, commissions, authorities and committees, and nominations that do not reflect the policy statement or were “deficient in recruitment efforts” to reach out to all parts of the community will be rejected.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.The Board of Police Commissioners is mandated to include at least one Indigenous person. Yee was appointed in January. As someone who grew up in two worlds — First Nations and Asian — he said he’s been able to bring a much-needed diverse perspective to the board.“There’s been a couple times where I’ve had to talk with the chief of police or even with my fellow co-workers and just really inform them of the First Nations values and the way that we look at life in general,” said Yee.It’s important, said Yee, especially at the board of directors level, to have members that represent a variety of perspectives and life experiences. The policy change is a step in the right direction toward achieving that, he said.“For the last seven years on council one of the things that concerned me is that our committees and the appointments we make … haven’t reflected the face of Regina to the extent they should,” said Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins. Busch is visually impaired and has cerebral palsy. She is one of three visually impaired people on the committee.“I think it’s a good step in the right direction because you’re thinking towards the future,” she said of the policy change. The more people on boards representing disabilities or other marginalized groups, the more inclusive the city will become, she added.“Ultimately, it’s not about the statements you make, it’s about the change that you created,” said Stevens. “I won’t lie, I think there’s a need to break up the old boys’ club.”The recommendation approved by council is a policy statement rather than a change to bylaws, he said — an important first step that must be followed up with concrete action and monitoring of how successful it is.Hawkins said measuring success shouldn’t be too difficult and can be done by simply looking through the lists of committee, board and commission members.“Are there any women? Are there any Aboriginal people? Are there any newcomers? Are there any young people? Is this committee or this agency, does it have the kind of representation that reflects Regina?” he said. “We have to monitor it.”Yee is optimistic that the policy statement will result in real change. He said working with fellow board members like Mayor Michael Fougere, Ward 1 Coun. Barbara Young and Ward 6 Coun. Joel Murray has shown him they mean it when they say diversity is important.“It’s not just words to them,” he said. “I find that .. when I’m there it’s not because I’m the token Indian, I’m there because my experience means more to them.”firstname.lastname@example.org There’s an advantage, he said, to having good representation and diversity on committees and boards, that goes beyond just being fair.“It’s also about making sure that we have the best and most capable boards and agencies that we can possibly have, and in order to do that we have to have diverse representation,” he said.A lack of diversity and representation is something that comes up every year around nomination time, said Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens.In many instances, the nominees coming forward are mostly men, resulting in all-male boards. He said council has the authority to send individual nominations back to the drawing board if they aren’t meeting the city’s vision of diversity and representation, but that it shouldn’t be something that is addressed on an ad hoc basis.“We needed something a bit more systemic,” he said about the new policy statement, adding it is designed to empower administration to also turn back nominations if they don’t align with the policy, before appointments ever get to council for approval.The way it stands now, nominators are advised of council’s objectives and encouraged to use “best efforts” to ensure a diversity of representation.According to the clerk’s report, nominating agencies and the public may not be aware of council’s stated objectives, resulting in proposed candidates who under-represent the community, or fewer applicants from representative groups.Going down the list of advisories, boards and committees, Hawkins said there is a clear shortage of visible minorities, women, young people and other community members.While he acknowledges the policy change is long overdue, he said there’s been some progress over the years.The Accessibility Advisory Committee appears to be one of them.“I think it’s good to have that representation because I do have more than one disability,” said Michelle Busch, who is serving her second three-year term on the committee. “I feel it’s good to be able to represent not only the visually impaired and blind community, but also the community that has physical disabilities.” Michelle Busch.