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Collingwood social activism gets world stage today

‘We hope it inspires people to join the fight and become an advocate for their town or municipality,’ says local advocate
2020-09-01 Summit1 JO-001
Coun. Tina Comi and Prabha Mattappally presented a video on social progress in Collingwood during the Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summit. Contributed image

A virtual gathering of international diplomats had a glimpse into demonstrations and actions taken toward social justice and sustainability in Collingwood over the past two years.

This week, the first Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summit Programme is taking place virtually, with world leaders plugging in to discuss sustainability in all its forms.

Prabha Mattappally did a presentation with Coun. Tina Comi as part of the Introduction to Collingwood segment on Tuesday morning. Mattappally, Comi and editor Sara Rodrigues put together a video outlining social and environmental shifts that have taken place in Collingwood over the past year, including rallies for Black Lives Matter, climate change and International Women’s Day events, which was shown to world leaders during their segment.

“I never thought I would do something like this,” said Mattappally, with a laugh, in an interview with CollingwoodToday. “We’re really proud of it, and we hope it inspires people to join the fight and become an advocate for their town or municipality.”

Over the past year, Mattappally says she’s become more active in the community, especially around racial justice issues, after she was a witness in an incident of racist slurs being displayed on a local business sign.

“I reached out to police and I also reached out to town councillors and did a deputation,” she said, adding she was part of the movement for council to consider a motion to prohibit symbols such as the Confederate flag in Collingwood.

Mattappally describes the presentation as being about three issues that point to social sustainability: racial inequality, women’s issues and climate action.

“It’s a realistic video about the challenges we face in Collingwood, but we’re also acutely aware that these issues are not isolated to Collingwood,” she said.

Mattappally said she also wanted to focus on the local community leaders who are advocating for change, as inspiration for others to become more involved. She also hopes her presentation will spark discussion and action between town leaders.

“If we can talk with other municipalities and find out what they’re doing on the local level, it helps us build our own case. How can we band together as cities and municipalities to address these issues? There’s power in numbers.”


Tomorrow, Coun. Yvonne Hamlin will be co-facilitating a panel discussion on Building Back Better and Differently: Impacts of Covid-19 on Recovery, Town Development, and Sustainability.

“I’m also going to jointly present a session on the ongoing work of the Institute of Southern Georgian Bay arising out of a series we held called Mapping our Road to Recovery,” said Hamlin.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Hamlin said the institute started discussions on future planning for the aftershock of COVID-19.

“It led to a four-part Zoom series,” said Hamlin, with a laugh. “The community we think of is a bit broader than Collingwood, because we think there is so much to be gained for everyone by pretending there are no municipal boundaries when it comes to certain issues.”

Examples of such issues include transit, affordable housing, environmental issues, social justice and social finance.

“Even our social services, such as the 211 service, are all about collaboration,” said Hamlin.

Overall, Hamlin said the conference is valuable as it draws in representatives from a variety of areas of expertise, and a variety of geographical areas to add many different perspectives to any conversation.

“At the end of the day when we have resolutions coming out of this conference, it won’t just be ‘What does Collingwood think?’” said Hamlin. “I’m hoping to find out, what are the best practises? What are the new practises? What are better practises to improve how we do things?”

The summit is running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 1 and 2, and is open to the public to view. To register or for more information, click here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 14 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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