Lacombe Councillor Cora Hoekstra is looking to provide the Rikubetsu Friendship Society more municipal direction through a motion made in council.
During a recent society meeting, some members expressed interest in having a more robust relationship with Lacombe’s long-time Japanese sister city, similar to the expansive relationship between Stony Plain and their sister-city Shikaoi.
“They as a municipality really support this friendship and the committee here in Lacombe is saying, hey municipality — what is the next step?,” Hoekstra said.
Many of the members of the society have been involved for many years and are hoping to re-energize the relationship between the two cities.
“They are asking whether the municipality is willing to take over some of the responsibility in maintaining this friendship,” Hoekstra said.
The City already supports the Friendship society through a grant and added budgetary supports through this motion would come in the form of administration time to help develop new connections to Rikubetsu, similar to those in place in Stony Plain
“They have a whole bunch of programs including hosting a family, having exchange students and assisted English programs,” she said.
Lacombe does host a delegation from Japan every year, but faces challenges in terms of a full exchange program due to a lack of host families in central Alberta.
“We know our community is already heavily involved with a Chinese exchange program through WCPS. There is no doubt that some of the energy that now goes into that program could have gone into this friendship,” Hoekstra said.
Ultimately, Hoekstra hopes to bring the will of the municipality back to the Friendship society.
“Is this something we want to take further or what is the next step? If we want to model our selves off of what Stony Plain does, there would be budgetary implications,” she said.
For this year’s delegation from Rikubetsu, plans are up in the air due to the COVID-10 pandemic. Hoekstra did say, however, that the relationship between the two has typically been more commitment from Japan — who send all of their Grade 8 students every year to Lacombe.
“People are not as involved in Lacombe, so it is hard to find host families,” she said.
Hoekstra hopes council will support this motion at the next Lacombe council meeting.
“Administration and CAO (Matt) Goudy is also suggesting this would be the beginning of the review of all councillor committees,” Hoekstra said.