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Feature Article - April 12, 2007

Building inclusive communities

by Jeff Green

Public meetings are scheduled for Mountain Grove, Parham, Plevna, and Sharbot Lake next week to kick start an innovative exercise in community building.

Central and North Frontenac is one of 10 Ontario communities that are included in Building Inclusive Communities, an initiative that is being funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

The initiative is designed to encourage members of the public to work together to build communities that are inclusive of those who often are excluded from community life, because of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, ability, gender, age or newness to the community.

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Community Living North Frontenac, an agency that works with people who have intellectual disabilities, received the initial funding for the project, but Northern Frontenac Community Services (NFCS) has come on to lead the project.

“The project is about the entire community, not just those with intellectual disabilities,” says Community Living Director Don Neilsen, “so we approached NFCS, which has a more general scope, to house it, and they agreed.”

So, far, three co-ordinating meetings have been held with representation from the local municipalities, aboriginal leadership, representatives from social agencies, and representatives from different villages.

Next week, the project will have its public launch. The first meeting will take place next Tuesday April 24 at Hinchinbrooke Public School with a dinner meeting between 5:30 and 9:00 pm (dinner at 5:30, meeting at 6:30). The second is a lunch meeting, slated for Clarendon Central Public School in Plevna on Wednesday April 25, followed by a meeting on that same evening in Mountain Grove at Land O’ Lakes Public School (dinner at 5:30, meeting at 6:30). The fourth meeting will be held at the Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake on Thursday, April 26th (dinner at 5:30, meeting at 6:30). The meals are all free and require pre-booking. See the ad on page 8 for more information.

The theme of the meetings is inclusion, but it is up to the participants to determine what the community needs in order to thrive in the coming years. Everyone is invited to attend, and there will be an opportunity for people to identify what it is that excludes them from full participation in community life, and to try and find solutions.

The process is deliberately open ended. The group that has been meeting thus far has not developed its own agenda for the meetings or what will follow them.

The funders of the project are looking for a long-term initiative which will lead to systematic changes that will help bring about more inclusion in community life.

As the promotion for the Community Inclusion Forum puts it, “the result will be a community that honours all its citizens.”

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