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 will allow 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. The aim of this work is to increase the capacity of rural communities to address incidents of racism and hate crime directly.
For those who are interested in participating in further work in this vein, feel free to contact Dr. Clark Banack (firstname.lastname@example.org).