Edmonton has limited authority, but great responsibility to embrace human rights: Sohi


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Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says municipal government has an important role to play in protecting and upholding human rights, even if it doesn’t always have the authority legislative.

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“We are the government closest to the people and we are meant to be champions for local people,” Sohi said in a virtual chat with members of Amnesty Edmonton last week. “So the role we have (is) to protect human rights through our own action and our own regulations. For example, whenever we adopt a regulation or adopt a policy, we apply an equity lens. This equity lens is about human rights.

He said it’s important to ensure programs and services are equally available to all Edmontonians, regardless of status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability or income. Making affordable housing more widely available is an example of this type of work, he said.

Anmesty Edmonton is a branch of Amnesty International, a global movement of more than two million people that campaigns for internationally recognized human rights for all.

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With a number of refugees and newcomers arriving in the city from Ukraine, Afghanistan and other places, Sohi said it was important to create a welcoming environment.

Sohi said refugees and newcomers have access to all services available to longer-term Edmontonians, such as affordable transportation and public libraries.

“Another thing we need to do more of is we need to build a culture of mutual embrace. Not just a culture of acceptance. Acceptance is more, ‘I don’t love you, but it’s okay we’re here. ‘ Kissing is more about welcoming people,” he said.

“We do this by ending racism and discrimination in our city, so a lot of my focus has been on putting policies in place and supporting cultural organizations to make Edmonton truly an anti-racism city – a place for all of us, it doesn’t matter if you came here yesterday, or if you were born here or if you are part of indigenous communities that have been here for centuries and centuries.

Sohi said community members can extend their friendship to newcomers, which would go a long way. He said people can also support local human rights, anti-racism and LGBTQ groups operating in the city through financial donations, volunteering or simply spreading the word about them.

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