Understanding and Responding to Intolerance in Rural Canada

On November 1-2, 2018, a group of 14 scholars from across Canada participated in an interdisciplinary workshop entitled "Enhancing Inclusivity in Rural Canada" at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life. Meeting within the context of both a seeming rise in xenophobic and anti-migrant sentiment across the Western world as well as the recognition that much more work must be done to ensure authentic Reconciliation between settlers and the indigenous peoples of Canada is occurring in rural areas, workshop participants discussed a variety on ongoing research projects that touched on the reality of cultural and religious diversity in rural Canada, with a focus on building more inclusive rural communities. Specific topics of discussion included "hate group" activity in rural Canada, the role played by both rural schools and rural religious organizations with respect to acknowledging and accepting diversity in rural communities, ongoing work to ensure positive integration for refuges in rural locations, settler - indigenous relations in rural Canada, and the importance of "rural identity" as a factor in both understanding citizen attitudes and addressing issues of racism or intolerance. The workshop concluded with a commitment by participants to continue working collaboratively on these projects in directions both academic and practical. Future plans involve a co-authored working paper, an edited volume based on our academic work.

On receipt of a grant from the Government of Alberta's Anti-Racism Community Grant program the project has been expanded to include an initiative entitled "Building Inclusive Communities in Rural Alberta." In addition to an academic research project aimed at better understanding the causes and consequences of racism in rural Alberta, this initiative allowed the ACSRC to deliver training and education on racism in rural communities to rural citizens, municipal workers, teachers and school administrators, religious organizations, and community groups throughout rural Alberta via workshops, community conversations, and the development and dissemination of information resources. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 Pandemic forced the cancellation of several "community conversations" that were to be facilitated by the ACSRC. In response, Dr. Clark Banack, project manager of the initiative, created a short video and accompanying PowerPoint slides providing tips to rural community organizations and leaders interested in hosting their own community conversation on this important topic. The aim of this work is to increase the capacity of rural communities to address incidents of racism and hate crime directly. "The research is clear that, over the long term, quality cultural education and authentic intercultural dialogue are keys to changing attitudes when it comes to addressing negative cultural or ethnic stereotypes" said Dr. Banack. "However, we also know that the first step in the long process of achieving intercultural awareness and respect in our communities is often encouraging citizens to do a bit of personal reflection that can build-up empathy for others. That is the purpose of this video resource: introducing community leaders to some basic group activities that are tailored to the realities of rural life and are designed to encourage that personal reflection and empathy that are so important."

For more information contact Dr. Clark Banack.


Hello Neighbour! Talking about cultural diversity in rural Alberta (video)

Hello Neighbour! Talking about cultural diversity in rural Alberta (PDF)