Abbotsford City Hall.

Abbotsford City Hall.

Mayor to sit down with Abbotsford’s unhappy cultural organizations

Groups unhappy with consultation on new cultural plan

The leaders of several prominent cultural organizations will be invited to meet with city staff and Mayor Henry Braun after sharply criticizing a report that aimed to set the stage for a new cultural strategy for Abbotsford.

City staff have started work on a new Cultural Strategic Plan, one of a myriad of new plans the city has worked on the last five years. That project aims to shape how the city will try to develop Abbotsford’s cultural institutions and assets over the next 20 years.

The start of each new plan by the city has seen staff create a detailed report summing up the current state of the topic in question. But the State of Culture Report delivered to council and the city’s cultural committee in February prompted several major cultural groups to write to the city to object to the process and some of the findings of the report.

Those groups include mainstays like The Reach Gallery Museum, Gallery 7 Theatre and Performing Arts, CIVL Radio, and the Abbotsford Arts Council.

In a long letter to the city that was co-signed by several other organizations, the Arts Council said February’s report failed to stress the need for more cultural infrastructure. The letter spoke of two decades of frustration.

“Many have said they have participated in a plethora of discussions over the last 20-plus years and ‘nothing has ever come of it.’”

The organization said the first phase of work had resulted in the sense that “the status quo will be maintained.”

Ken Hildebrandt, the executive director of Gallery 7 Theatre, wrote that his group had participated in one round-table workshop, and then received no further invitations for consultation. He said the report suggested “the City had already pre-determined the outcomes it desires from the consultation process.”

And Milt Walker, the chair of The Reach Gallery Museum’s board of directors, wrote that “we are concerned that the incomplete process and resulting information in the State of Culture Report will continue to shape the outcome of the final strategy if the issues we raise are not addressed.”

Most took issue with the idea that there should be “less reliance on physical infrastructure,” pointing to an existing deficit in cultural facilities in Abbotsford.

But the groups also urged the city to return to major stakeholders for more discussions.

Staff presented a new report to council Monday, with feedback from residents and stakeholders – including the critical letters appended.

The backlash prompted Braun to declare that the work on the new plan should be paused to allow time to hear more from the cultural organizations.

He said he didn’t agree with much of the criticism, and noted that much seems to be the result of actions – or lack thereof – of previous councils over the last 20 years. But he said the present impasse needs to be fixed.

“We need to resolve this. And maybe it will never be resolved to others’ satisfaction 100 per cent, but if these organizations are pushing back against us, that’s not going to help us in trying to move this forward,” he said.

Members of council suggested they were receptive to hearing more feedback.

“I’m hopeful that if there are hard feelings from the past, now’s the time to be heard,” said Coun. Bruce Banman (who has not yet assumed his role as a Member of the Legislature). “We want to hear those voices. There’s not much point in rehashing everything that’s happened in the past. However we can learn from the mistakes of the past as the culture of this city becomes more inclusive.”

And Coun. Dave Loewen said the groups had a point when they suggested that Abbotsford was in need of more cultural facilities.

“Historically, this municipality has spent much less per capita than other jurisdictions have and just as important as economic and physical infrastructure, there’s such a thing as social infrastructure. Perhaps we need to steel our minds to that conversation when we do budgeting coming up.

“Perhaps we’re guilty of deferring the commitment of funds to that part of infrastructure in our city. And this … could be part of the reason why we have some segments of our community that are very unhappy. They’re feeling that they’ve been held back by financial constraints, that we don’t put financial resources into something that is really important to them. We’re accountable for the fact that not more resources have been put into social infrastructure over the last 15, 20 years.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mia Skoone (left), with her cousin Gavin Nahal, has donated her birthday money to the ARH pediatrics unit for the past eight years. Now she is seeking sponsorships from local businesses to fund a UN conference she has been invited to. (Submitted)
One of Abbotsford’s most charitable youths seeking sponsors for conference trip

Abbotsford Senior Secondary School student Mia Skoone has been invited to UN event in May

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
COVID-19 outbreaks continue at 2 Abbotsford care homes

Tabor Home and Menno Home still battling the virus

Cottage-Worthington Pavilion
COVID-19 outbreak over at Abbotsford’s Cottage-Worthington Pavilion

Outbreak declared over at Fraser Health-run facility

The Abbotsford Centre hours before tip-off of the Fraser Valley Bandits debut in 2019. The arena saw no games from the Bandits in 2020 due to COVID-19. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Abbotsford Centre aims to rise from the ashes of 2020

After a strong 2019 and early-2020, COVID-19 hit the Abbotsford Centre hard

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3) after an inmate escaped from corrections officers. The man was taken back into custody a short while later. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Escapee in Abbotsford has twice been on the lam from authorities

Stephane Bissonnette escapes from corrections officers, but is arrested a short while later

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read