A group working to make Muskoka more inclusive presented its first actions.
The district formed the IDEA Advisory Group (IAG) in 2020 to promote inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism (IDEA) in the community.
Mark Nakamura, IAG president and longtime seasonal resident, says they currently have two projects underway. The first is a grants program for local organizations and businesses to help them develop policies and programs that promote IDEA.
“That could include looking at how they function in the community and in their organizations,” Nakamura says. “Are their employment practices fair? Are their services accessible and equitable for marginalized groups in our community? This kind of initiative that we would like to stimulate, because we are aware that for this to happen, it takes commitment [and] Resources.”
According to Nakamura, the terms of reference will require work and they hope to implement the program in 2023.
The other project, scheduled for fall or winter 2022, is an event or series of events designed to address hate.
Nakamura says they haven’t decided exactly what the format will be yet, but will focus on education. Topics will likely include the importance of responding to hate, how victims are affected, support mechanisms in the community, and the message that hate is not acceptable in Muskoka.
“[We need to] make sure people know that expressions of hatred and intolerance are not acceptable in Muskoka,” Nakamura said. “We have to recognize that Muskoka is changing, it’s becoming much more diverse. This will present challenges to our community and the need to make it more inclusive and equitable.
AGI’s strategic action plan was approved by the District Council last month, with a focus on promoting these values in the community, in local businesses and organizations and in the group itself .
“It’s a long process. It involves changes, and it’s not something that will happen overnight,” says Nakamura. “We hope to plant seeds that will grow and make Muskoka a truly equitable, inclusive and welcoming community as we enter the next decade.