Community Resilience: Environmental Scan
Lead / Author
Stephane Pressault, Karim H. Karim and Nadia Hai; Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Research conducted between August 2014 to March 2015, submitted in April 2015.
This environmental scan presents findings about how Canadians view community resilience and threats to it, as well as how communities develop responses to threats, including racism and discrimination, gang activity, and violent extremism. The research was conducted as part of a larger project entitled Project Communitas, which aimed to work with Canadian youth to develop a better understanding of threats to public safety, and increase their knowledge on community and individual level resilience, including through connecting them with local stakeholders towards building safer communities.
Project Communitas worked to develop intercultural and inter-faith community-based resilience projects in seven cities across Canada – the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, and London – focusing on developing active citizenship, dialogue and youth leadership.
In the context, the scan aimed to gather and analyze information to support development of resources like the Human Resilience Toolkit (available on the Canadian Council of Muslim Women site), as well as inform training workshops in each city. The research reviewed relevant content from major broadcasters, print media, and online sources during the period of August 2014 to March 2015. As well, interviews with community leaders and activists in the seven cities were conducted to explore their perspectives on relevant community issues, including factors which may undermine community resilience.
The report provides a national overview of the media scans and explores the results of each city case study. The second part of the report presents the results of the interviews. The authors also identify key factors and make recommendations that could be useful in supporting and increasing community resilience.
The media analysis finds that the circulation of negative stereotypes by media, politicians, or special interest groups, is a major threat to community resilience. The authors argue that addressing this problem requires communities to engage media and the sources of negative stereotype(s), but also note the challenges involved, including the possibility of exacerbating conflict. Cases from Edmonton and Ottawa, for example, demonstrate how successful engagement can occur when responses dispel negative stereotypes, while promoting a sense of understanding. In Edmonton, when an anti-immigration group released ads targeting Muslim women being “honour killed,” two community leaders responded with a newspaper article to highlight both the why the group was wrong and the efforts by community groups working on stopping violence against women.
Issues related to radicalization and extremism were also identified as a major theme, particularly in Calgary and London. Communities responded to these issues by developing resources and supports to help affected families, as well as focusing on building stronger ties within the community, such as reaching out to individuals who feel alienated, encouraging and supporting them to be positively engaged in their communities.
Gang issues were prominent in Vancouver and Edmonton’s Aboriginal and refugee communities, notably for youth. Community responses and programs responding to these issues also emphasized building cultural and community ties, with the aim of helping individuals find meaning and a sense of belonging within their own communities. For example, the WrapEd initiative in Edmonton is a collaboration of community organizations dedicated to preventing youth from joining gangs by providing services such as rehabilitation and career development.
The main threat discovered in Montreal was the reactions and responses to the controversial Bill 60, or the Quebec Values Charter. Community efforts to counter the proposed legislation demonstrated some of the best examples of intercommunity engagement, through multi-faith educational events and creative works bringing people together.
Based on the results from the interviews, and supported by the community resilience examples from the media scan, participants suggest the need for financial and human resources, institutions, and partnerships to develop more resilient communities. The interviews particularly highlighted the importance of improving partnerships with law enforcement, whom were often viewed by study participants as pushing people away rather than engaging communities. As well, the results from media scan and the interviews suggest that in order for a community to be resilient, individuals must feel like they are safe and belong to a community, and that they do not feel like their religious or cultural identity conflicts with their sense of belonging. Overall, the authors argue that the best initiatives to build community resilience and cohesion are those that encourage a sense of belonging and intercommunity collaboration.
Project Communitas, “Human Resilience Toolkit,” Canadian Council of Muslim Women, 2015.
Myrna Lashley et al., “Cultural Competence and Canada’s Security: Can being culturally competent assist police and security officers in ensuring Canada’s security?,” Environics, 2014.
John Monahan, Rima Berns-McGown and Michael Morden, “The Perception & Reality of ‘Imported Conflict’ in Canada,” The Mosaic Institute, 2014.
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