Get to Know Who's Running: Gerard Mutabazi Amani (Ward Dene)
There happens to be a Municipal Election coming up in Edmonton on October 18, 2021, and I think it's important for locals to get to know the City Council candidates running for their particular ward (as well as their Mayoral candidates, of course). I chose to get more involved in the election this year and so wanted to give each candidate a chance to tell us a little about themselves, their vision, and why you should vote for them. I have sent a 10-question questionnaire to each of the 2021 Edmonton Municipal Election candidates and will post their responses (100% as written) here as they come in. With that said, let's get to know...
|Gerard Mutabazi Amani|
"My purpose has always been to serve humanity and improve their livelihood in everything that I do. Whether it’s employment, volunteering on the frontlines, leading events, moderating or speaking at events, I am always driven by the desire to transform people’s lives and build a better, inclusive, and prosperous Edmonton for all. . I’m grateful for the work that I have done over the years and humbled by the countless lives I’ve touched near and far but I believe that ."
I♥E/ Why do you want to run for City Council?
GMA/ Whether it’s employment, volunteering on the frontlines, leading events, moderating or speaking at events, I am always driven by the desire to transform people’s lives and build a better, inclusive, and prosperous Edmonton for all. It is for these reasons why I have decided to run for City Council in the 2021 City of Edmonton Municipal Election for Ward Dene formerly known as Ward 4. Given the opportunity to serve the residents of Ward Dene and wider Edmonton on the City Council, everyday my driving question will be, how can I help to improve the situation?
I♥E/ Can you tell us about your past or current experiences that you think could possibly benefit/ translate to your position as a member of City Council?
GMA/ I was the President and Founder of Diaspora African Youth Association (DAYA) where I championed youth unity and involvement in society on issues related to refugees, youth, homelessness and education. Whether it’s with organizations such as, Canadian Red Cross, Action for Health Communities, YESS, Hope Mission, Catholic Social Services, or Homeless Connect, I have dedicated myself to serving Edmontonians. In 2015 I was invited by Canadian Roots Exchange to be part of a Panel at their annual conference titled ‘Bridging the Gap’ in Winnipeg which focused on how Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians can work together for a better, prosperous and more inclusive Canada. After coming from Winnipeg, I helped to organize an event at NAIT in partnership with Canadian Roots Exchange and DAYA where both histories of Indigenous and Black Canadians were highlighted in order to build bridges. The detailed past and ongoing experiences of advocacy and servant leadership have well prepared me for City Council and I believe such knowledge is greatly needed right now more than ever. In everything I have done and continue to do, it has always been about serving people. We need City Councillors who will advocate for and put the residents at forefront on every decision. We need City Councillors who will always ask themselves how can they improve the lives of people and transform our beautiful city for the benefits of everyone.
I♥E/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?
GMA/ There are many issues that are currently facing Edmonton and this is why we need a City Council which will put the interests of the people as their driving force in everything that they do. The issues that I desire to focus on right now are; 1) Investment in affordable housing and ending homelessness, 2) Bettering public transportation, 3) Improving Indigenous relations and ensuring inclusive representation, 4) Supporting businesses and community organizations and 5) Accountability and fiscal responsibility. Addressing these issues is why I am running and I look forward to be given the opportunity to serve Ward Dene residents and Edmontonians in order to work together towards solutions.
I♥E/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?
GMA/ The detailed 5 issues above don’t just affect Edmonton at large but are also very specifics to Ward Dene. For example, there are amazing community organizations which provides support on things such as mental health, education, family, food bank and cultural to name but a few. This Covid-19 and ongoing health measures in place have had great impacts on people’s health and finances at all levels and we need to ensure that these community organizations which many people rely on for support at all times, especially during these times, are well equipped with resources from the city to care for people. And this can be best achieved by all three levels of governments working together. Same goes with addressing homelessness and affordable housing; we need a strong strategy put forth when it comes to affordable housing in Ward Dene in order to house those who are homeless and also support others not to fall into homelessness. When we invest in affordable housing, we ensure that we are tackling the present and future problems related to homelessness.Furthermore, as many people rely on public transportation to go to school, work, hospital, grocery shopping and many other places, we need to invest in more bus routes in the Ward and also looking at how some routes can be servicing very late or people not waiting for long time for a bus. When our public transportation system is efficient, people will plan and better their lives in all areas. The City Council cannot be increasing the fare whereas the service is increasing at minimum or not at all in some cases. I can go on and on but I believe you can the picture on how the issues highlighted deeply affects Ward Dene residents and should I be taken the opportunity to serve on City Council, I am ready to bring much needed change.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?
GMA/ Since I am in this for the people, I will start with the city’s ongoing initiative of ending homelessness and affordable housing. As someone who knows what it’s like to go to bed hungry, it breaks my heart seeing homeless population or people living in poverty. As someone who has lived in social housing, it breaks my heart to see that some people are having a challenge to afford rent, pay bills or put food on the table. I am an advocate and servant leader and excited for the opportunity to join force with fellow City Councillors, should I be elected, to achieve this initiative in the very near future. There are great socio-economic returns when we go all in in ensuring that all people live with dignity and that starts with having a place to call home and not sleeping on the streets. To me, this also goes with the initiative of ending poverty because when people fall into poverty, they cannot afford bills, rent or food. When people fall into poverty, some end up becoming homeless while others struggle everyday to make end’s meat. We can and we must do better in supporting people at all levels.Moreover, REACH Edmonton is also another initiative which I love and would like to expand upon. First of all, I like their mission of, “To strengthen community safety in our city and region through innovative ideas, building relationships and inspiring action.” and this is what we should all strive for in order to build a better, inclusive and prosperous Edmonton for everyone no matter the race, gender, origin or belief. This relates to one of the issues in my platform of improving Indigenous relations and inclusive representation at all levels across the city because when people have a great sense of belonging, they will do everything in their power to make it a safer place for all. Again, when it comes to the community, I can go on and on about the many amazing initiatives which impacts the population everyday but for the sack of being short, I will also touch on the initiative of ‘Space for Non-profit organizations. I am a huge supporter of non-profit organizations and we need to continue providing spaces for them to deliver the much-needed products and services that Ward Dene residents and Edmontonians greatly depend on.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?
GMA/ Whichever initiatives that the city bring forward, the interests of Edmontonians need to be the utmost consideration and how such initiatives will contribute positively to their lives. For example, when the city made a deal with Katz Group to build the new down arena, taxpayers’ money was contributed for already a billionaire owner. At every given opportunity, we need to advocate for and invest in projects that transform Edmontonians’ lives instead of spending the money on people or groups that don’t really need the support. Let rich people pay for the things that they want, but taxpayers’ money should not be spent just because rich people don’t want to pay-up. I am for the people and will always be for the people and this is why I am running for City Council. I will always make sure that any and every deal is in the best interest of Ward Dene residents and Edmontonians. Some reports are that the arena has made life unaffordable for many in the area while others still waiting for the return that was promised to them. The people’s money should always be invested in the people’s projects. And every project that the city spends the people’s money on needs to have a great return for the people.
I♥E/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?
GMA/ Elected officials are there to serve the people and need to have all means of communications in place which might also help with ensuring accountability at all levels. I don’t believe elected officials should be blocking people on social media sites but we also need to be having meaning and respectful conversations which are of great benefits to all parties and society at large. if elected officials are being abused on social media then specific actions such as blocking in order to protect their well-being and at times their safety need to be taken into consideration. Blocking someone because you don’t have same views or you didn’t like a question asked is not how elected officials should be handling matters of communications. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we are creating safe platforms online for meaningful exchanges and not to tolerate abuse or bullying because someone is an elected official.
I♥E/ When it comes to COVID-19 restrictions, what do you think we got wrong (if anything) as a city or province, and is there anything you would want to do differently (municipally OR provincially)?
GMA/ At the start when Covid-19 cases were increasing and restrictions across the country were being introduced, Edmonton was slow to act on mandatory masks in public places and even when restrictions were put in place, cards were made available for people to apply in order to not wear a mask. While I recognize that indeed some people because of health reasons needed accommodations, many others abused this gesture and in part because the whole City Council was not united in their messaging. The health and safety of Edmontonians should have been and always be the number concern for every City Councillor. Not every decision that the City Council pass will have overall support as we have seen from the past, but when a decision is passed, everyone need to get behind the decision in order to drive the message home especially on matters of health and safety. Arguments which put people’s health and life at risk cannot be ongoing while a final decision has been made.
I♥E/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?
GMA/ The love and support I have received throughout the years from Edmontonians whether on personal or professional development is the reason I am happy and proud to call Edmonton home. Many people have impacted my life and this is why I continue to do everything possible to impact the lives of fellow Edmontonians be it through employment, volunteering, or leading initiatives which are of high importance to everyone. Edmonton is a great city to establish a home and a future and we need to continue working together to improve it to ensure everyone has sense of belonging. The people are what makes Edmonton amazing and when all people unite for the greater good, everything is possible.
I♥E/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?
GMA/ Compassionate, social, adventurous, committed and principled.