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Workshop to bring people together coming to Smithers

A workshop to bring people together is coming to Smithers.

A workshop to bring people together is coming to Smithers.

SmithersTalks is an event that could bring harmony to the community by pairing up people whose perspectives differ for one-on-one conversations, according to organizers. The objective of the event is to mend political and social divisions by fostering mutual understanding and compassion between community members.

SmithersTalks is working with the organization My Country Talks (MCT), which pioneered the concept of bringing together political opposites. MCT has hosted events with hundreds of thousands of people in regional, national and local settings. According to organizers, the feedback from these events has been transformative and positive for participants who were able to see the human side of another political perspective.

Madeleine Ghatavi, an organizer of SmithersTalks, says she wants to bring people together. After seeing a TedTalk on MCT, she thought this was a good way to do it.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in recent years, with politics and the Freedom Convoy sometimes facts and legitimate information isn’t enough to communicate clearly between people and form mutual understanding between people who are already socially separated,” she explained to Smithers town council.

“A German news site decided to bring a space for seeing the human side to a political spectrum by hosting an event space to pair people who have completely opposite opinions and they have it out on what they are disagreeing on. People were happy to have a chance to speak with someone that they previously didn’t see eye to eye with.”

The next steps are to promote the event and then get participants to fill in a Google form with yes/no questions about relevant community topics. From there, MCT’s algorithm screens and pairs participants with different answers. Participants set up conversations independently.

Smithers Town council has offered up the town hall as an event venue free of charge.

“It seems like it is a go now, which is exciting,” Ghatavi said. “When I look at the political tensions that are rising in the world, as a young person, it is inspiring to see these grassroots dialogue spaces coming to fruition and that can help to diffuse tensions before they become civil wars and make an impact on how we run societies.”

“This is exciting,” said Coun. Greg Brown. “This is something I’ve always believed in, getting people together.”

While events like this have been held across Europe, Ghatavi said there hasn’t been an event like this in Canada yet but thinks Smithers is a good spot for one.

“[Smithers] has some unique brand of political tensions,” she said. “There is a lot of energy in people here.”

Ghatavi is hoping workshops will start in December 2022.

SmithersTalks is also in discussions with The Interior News to become the legal partner in the project, which entails safekeeping participants’ data.


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Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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