How are Community Leaders Inspiring Change in Mohkínstsis (Calgary)?

Joining CUI host Mary Rowe for our session “CityTalk In Residence: How are Community Leaders Inspiring Change in Mohkínstsis (Calgary)?” are Beth Gignac, Chief Operating Office of Calgary and Area United Way; Jason Ribeiro, Director of Strategy of Calgary Economic Development; Patti Pon, President & CEO of Calgary Arts Development, Karen Gosbee, Co-Chair of Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction Stewardship Group; and Tim Fox, Calgary Foundation’s Vice President of Indigenous Relations & Equity Strategy. #CUIxLocal

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Reconciliation needs to be front and centre

Tim Fox, Vice President of Indigenous Relations & Equity Strategy with the Calgary Foundation, puts forward that there are big gaps facing populations that have not benefitted from settler-created systems of philanthropy. The Indigenous population is the fastest growing population segment in the country. Fox issues a call to action to his colleagues to consider what that means. “There’s going to be this untapped human resource of Indigenous folks entering into the workforce in urban centers. And if you’re a part of the human services sector, for example, that requires you as a system to shift and change. Gone are the days where we should expect Indigenous people to increase their capacity. What are you as an organization and sector doing to shift and change your practice that is more inclusive, that’s more welcoming and provides a sense of belonging for this growing population?”

2. A city of paradoxes.

Jason Ribeiro, Director of Strategy at Calgary Economic Development, argues that what Calgary in the new economy has revealed “a city of paradoxes”. We can take pride that Calgary was named the most livable city in North America according to the Economist, yet it is also among the cities leading in income inequality. Despite having a highly educated workforce, the ground is shifting with the energy transition, and digital economy. Meanwhile, Calgary’s downtowns are in crisis. But, he says, there are important local initiatives leading the response, citing examples like the 1 Million Square Feet initiative, focused on re-animating downtown spaces.

3. Filling the gap between growing needs and declining revenues

According to United Way Calgary and Area’s Beth Gignac, across the country non-profit philanthropic organizations are facing a 4–6.2 billion-dollar reduction in revenues. 69% are experiencing in a decline in revenues, and one in five are not going to make it out of the pandemic. At a time when community serving organizations and agencies are needed more than ever, she argues that the sector needs to think structurally about how to sustain itself through and beyond the pandemic, and its relationship to government.

4. Addressing systemic disconnections across the system

COVID-19 has exposed systemic problems and gaps within and between institutional systems of support for the most vulnerable among us. According to Karen Gosbee, COVID provides an important opportunity to take action to better organize, integrate, and align systems surrounding mental health and addictions, across the continuum of prevention, promotion, treatment, and recovery.

5. Arts-led city building strategies for an inclusive environment

According to Calgary Arts Development President & CEO Patti Pon, arts-led city-building is at the heart of recovery. “Artists are our storytellers. This time will be remembered through the stories that artists will tell and express, through their lenses, through their eyes and hearts and minds… [We have to all] do our best to include artists at these very tables that are talking about the future, that are looking at ways to innovate.”

Additional Resources

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:

White Goose Flying: A Report to Calgary City Council on the Indian Residential School Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action:

Strengthening Relations with Indigenous Communities Impact Report by Calgary Foundation:

The Indigenomics Institute is an Indigenous economic advisory for public governments, Indigenous communities and the private sector:

The immigration conversation: How immigrants contribute to Alberta’s economic prosperity:

Innovative new approach launched to bolster immigrants’ integration success: