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New NPD committee to help racialized people in the Nelson area

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
August 23rd, 2021

A new Nelson Police committee is being set up to engage all visible minorities — or racialized people — in the Nelson area to ensure the playing field is level.

The provisionally named Diversity Advisory Committee is being set up by the Nelson Police Department (NPD) to strengthen community and police relationships, increase understanding and create a positive working atmosphere, said NPD chief constable Donovan Fisher.

The committee will begin to unravel the issues within the community as a whole, along with perceptions from all angles and viewpoints, he explained, and hopefully formulate some answers that will point the way to changing those existing relationships.

“Ultimately, it is to give a voice to members of the community who have not felt like they have had a voice, or have not been heard,” he explained.

“I am very excited and optimistic about this committee and see it as a bit of a blank canvas at this point where we have many positive possibilities going forward.”

Committee creation

There isn’t one defining reason for the existence of such a committee, said Fisher.

“(But) one being the over-arching movements we have seen across North America around policing and race relations,” he said. 

“All police forces need to be aware of identified concerns and issues and need to be open to looking at ourselves and where we can improve.”

The action of the creation of the committee does not imply there was anything wrong or improper within the community, he added.

“But (it) also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reflect to ensure this isn’t the case or that there aren’t areas we could improve on.”

Fisher observed, firsthand, significant improvement in community relations when he was previously part of advisory committees concerning indigenous, cultural and other diversity matters.

“I saw what some good communication and relationship building could achieve,” he said. 

“Small problems could be dealt with quickly and were either explained or fixed long before they ever became big or contentious issues.”

Racialized communities

The committee could also be one of the ways to help reverse the growing tide of homelessness in Nelson. Homelessness has one of its root causes in systemic and institutionalized racism.

“Disproportionate rates of incarceration, higher drop-out rates for education, barriers to employment and denial and discrimination in seeking government assistance all lead to people becoming homeless from racialized communities,” read an excerpt from the website,

According to the website, fulltimeemployment for racialized Canadians is often at a lesser rate than the Canadian average, meaning income levels are also lower.

As well, labour market flexibility demands have affected racialized communities to “contract, temporary, part-time and shift work with poor job security, low wages and benefits.”


Committee make up

The diversity advisory committee is still in the “consultative” stage so members have not been selected.

The right representation on the committee will be governed by choosing the people that can be vocal on the issues facing their community, said Fisher, with consultants and stakeholders polled to craft the appropriate mandate.

“Objectives for the committee will be identified and from there, making sure we have the right representation on the committees that speaks for their communities,” he said.

Through stakeholder meetings coming up in September the committee will be able to establish what path it is going down, Fisher explained.

Consultation will identify “key areas to focus on and address, identifying the best parties to be involved and get some feedback from the consultant on how best to operate the committee in an effective and efficient manner that doesn’t become too taxing or too much of commitment on the committee members, so they stay interested and engaged,” he said.

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