Meet the councillors: Aaron Paquette calls for focus on 'issues of security'

Taproot's civic affairs podcast is presenting a series of short interviews with each councillor to introduce you to who they are and what they want to focus on during their next year in office.

The second such segment in Episode 154 of Speaking Municipally introduces incumbent Aaron Paquette, councillor for Ward Dene.

Paquette, who was first elected to council in 2017, is an award-winning Indigenous artist and author. As a councillor, he sponsored an initiative on food and agribusiness diversification, and he also helped lead initiatives to do with Child-Friendly Edmonton, End Poverty Edmonton, multiculturalism, and literacy, as well as urban isolation and mental health.

"(I'm) all about service to the community. It's something that I grew up with, that was embedded in my teachings all my life and is a absolutely distinct part of my culture, that we are all connected," Paquette told Speaking Municipally.

As Paquette begins his second term, he plans to continue to focus on "issues of security" such as food and housing.

"Some people might say city council shouldn't be focusing on social issues. But people who say that are absolutely and irrefutably wrong," Paquette said. "Every social issue, it tends to be an economic issue. And if we don't get it right, then we find ourselves with wonderful plans and a crumbling social structure."

Aaron Paquette, wearing a ribbon shirt and holding an eagle feather, is sworn in as a city councillor.

Aaron Paquette was sworn in for his second term on council on Oct. 26. (Mack Male/Flickr)

He'll be looking at mental health and addiction supports, as well as houselessness, issues Paquette said the province should be tackling but "in the absence of provincial leadership" have fallen to the city.

"We're trying to do what we can but we do not have the legal tools. And we certainly do not have the economic ability to do this," he said.

Going forward, Paquette explained that it will be crucial for the four returning councillors to provide leadership and guidance on this and other portfolios that are complex and difficult to get up to speed on quickly.

"It's ... going to take those of us who are returning to really drive home the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in, because this one issue is representative of so many issues that are indicative of the broken relationship between this province and its municipalities."

Meet Edmonton's other city councillors in upcoming episodes of Speaking Municipally. And refresh your memory on how they answered the Taproot Survey on a variety of city issues.

Episode 154 also features an interview with Giri Puligandla of the Canadian Mental Health Association and Christel Kjenner, the director of affordable housing at the City of Edmonton, on the issues being raised during Edmonton Housing Month.