Website hopes to promote healthy public discourse
Thursday, Apr 20, 2017 06:00 am
These days in Canmore, telling someone you are taking the Highline is starting to mean a lot more than just taking a hike on a trail.
That’s thanks to a group of local citizens who started a public awareness campaign to improve the level of discourse in the community.
Take the Highline is an initiative put together by Canmore residents Jeff Mah, Marnie Dansereau, Charla Tomlinson, Sally Caudill and Sean Krausert.
Tomlinson took time to address Canmore town council at its April committee of the whole meeting to describe the initiative and where it came from.
She said the website and initiative came about because all five were hearing discord in the public dialogue of the community over a number of issues – and whether it was at public hearings or in coffee shops, they wanted to create a space for people with differing opinions to express themselves without anger and negativity.
“The Take the Highline Initiative was identified as something the five of us wanted to bring attention to,” Tomlinson said. “We named it in honour of our own Highline Trail, and it is like taking the high road.”
When personal attacks, assumptions and rumours make up the community conversations, she said that creates a destructive and not a constructive environment. In referencing the Highline Trial, she said the challenge is to residents to take a pledge to Take the Highline in their conversations and engage in dialogue by listening, being honest, and dealing with the issues in a respectful way.
In order to promote healthy public dialogue on topics that can be emotional and controversial in the community, Tomlinson said the initiative identifies the kind of communication that is on the Highline and what would be considered the lowline. According to the website, Taking the Highline “means to engage in dialogue by listening, being honest and constructive, dealing with issues (not people), seeking the greater good and engaging in respectful behaviour.
“Conversely, to ‘take the lowline’ means to make assumptions and spread rumours, engaging in personal attacks, and abusing or bullying others with the end result being quite destructive.”
Tomlinson told council that it has been observed that sometimes at public hearings those speaking are on the lowline, and that can make it difficult for council and administration to be effective in their jobs.
She said the Highline initiative is not about supporting any positition or side of any debate or issue currently being discussed in the community, but instead promoting communication with each other and increased understanding from all points of view.
“Try to stick to the facts, so issues can be dealt with and leave aside the personal nature of what goes on in the community,” Tomlinson said.
Krausert, who also sits as a town councillor, said he supported the initiative in order to be a voice for positive communication no matter the venue.
“What I have found is that there are people that really appreciate somebody standing up as you have just done to be the positive voice, because it can be drowned out or become the silent majority when there are negative voices,” he said.
The webpage sets out a pledge for those interested to take and so far 315 people have signed up. Go to www.takethehighline.com for more details, or to signup.