Letter: We are all part of building our community

'Need for more effective, open and balanced community engagement and conversation between Oak Bay’s local government and its residents'

Re: A little more conversation, please, Our View, and Be wary of ‘political’ survey questions, Your View, Oak Bay News, Oct. 21

In the Oct. 21 edition of the Oak Bay News, both the editorial and an opinion piece by Oak Bay resident Bruce Kilpatrick caught my attention because they point to the need for more effective, open and balanced community engagement and conversation between Oak Bay’s local government and its residents.

These two opinion pieces reinforced what I learned while attending an inspiring public session a week earlier, titled “Community Belonging, Connection and Well-Being.”

Hosted by the City of Victoria and the Victoria Foundation and its sponsors, guest speakers and national thought leaders, Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary and Khalil Shariff, CEO of Canada’s Aga Khan Foundation, shared their insights on how important civic engagement is to community well-being.

They suggest that governance and community consultation, at their best, should advance goals of inclusion and belonging, thereby instilling a greater sense of responsibility in citizens, leaders and institutions.

That governance is essentially “a conversation with citizens” that should focus on responsibility for the public good was a consistent theme throughout the presentation.

Mayor Nenshi asked the audience such searching questions about community as “Who are we and how do we live together?  What do we want to be?”

He talked about the serious issue of community well-being and about his responsibility as mayor to address issues that affect citizen health and connection.

Both speakers agree that community belonging, wellness and connection are keys to creating “institutional strength and community assets.”

They also suggest that poor civic engagement and leadership are root causes of citizen mistrust and isolation, and must be replaced by a need to embark on the “entrepreneurial pursuit of a civil society” through “leadership of a certain competence and character,” one anchored in what Mr. Shariff refers to as a “basic ethical posture.”

Which brings us to how local government in Oak Bay can create and build more effective community engagement with its residents.

What are the roles of our community leaders and citizens in this endeavour and how do they each make a difference together?

Mayor Nenshi revealed a simple truth about civic engagement from a citizen’s point of view — “was I asked?”

In other words, do Oak Bay citizens feel that their input and involvement are valued and that they are included in significant community decisions and initiatives?

Effective civic engagement leads to what Mayor Nenshi and Mr. Shariff call “civil’ engagement” – these are connected but they are not the same.

In other words, to be a truly inclusive community, we must bring those who “feel that they are on the outside…to the inside,” harnessing more positive public involvement that “appeals to the best” in people.

The greatest defense to citizen apathy is creating meaningful opportunities for citizens to come together in an atmosphere of “creative leadership,” one that focuses on community service or, as Mr. Shariff describes it, “the service ethic.”

As Mayor Nenshi pointed out, the fundamental role of community leadership and governance is to help people understand that community doesn’t “happen to you; you are part of building it.”

 

 

Cairine Green

 

Oak Bay

 

 

Just Posted

Oak Bay man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

BC Farmers’ Market Trail a one-stop virtual guide to the goods

New website assembles, profiles 145+ farmers’ markets throughout B.C.

Westshore Rebels game postponed due to poor air quality conditions

Games expected to continue the following week

Saanich police investigating sexual assault in broad daylight

Social media lit up with accusations incident took place at Regina Park tent city

Swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Most Read