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An inclusive community should have limits

Pride01C. GilbertAs Jasper celebrates another successful pride festival, our political leaders have been struggling to agree upon a proclamation that would designate Jasper as an “inclusive” community.

At first this might seem like an odd thing to get hung up on, given the fact that Jasper already takes pride in being an inclusive community and is host to the third-largest pride festival in Alberta.

However, the fear among councillors is that a proclamation claiming to be all-inclusive could be hijacked by fringe elements of society and used as a tool against the community.

It’s unfortunate that Monika Schaefer, a long-time resident and a vocal Holocaust denier, has become central to the question of what it means to be an inclusive community.

Not only are her views about the Holocaust erroneous and empirically wrong, they are the antithesis of what it means to be an inclusive community.

This doesn’t mean Schaefer doesn’t have a right to express her opinion, it just means that the community also has a right to ignore it, especially when it comes to matters of public policy.

Allowing her misguided and repugnant claims to affect political discourse and effectively lead to a watered down proclamation is alarming and helps legitimize her opinion.

Instead of pandering to her concerns, council should have taken the opportunity to remind the community that while it strives to be inclusive, there are limitations.

For example, what if the Hells Angels or Blood and Honour wanted to set up shop in town? Would the community have to accept these criminal and racist organizations with open arms? Let’s hope not.

By stripping important qualifiers, such as ethnicity, religion and culture, from the proclamation, it inadvertently sends a message that all ideas and philosophies are welcomed in our community regardless of their content.

This surely isn’t what the municipality envisioned when it began discussing the proclamation, but that’s what it’s beginning to look like.

The question councillors and residents should ask themselves is whether we really need a proclamation to foster an inclusive community and if so, where do we draw the line?

By using qualifiers to limit what it means to be an inclusive community, councillors would be sending a strong message that Jasper’s accommodating ways have limits.

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