StettlerLocal.com September 11, 2020 @ 1:53 PM
Friday morning, September 11, Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women Leela Aheer spoke at the Stettler Museum as part of Alberta Culture Days. Wearing a cloth mask with a First Nations-style portrait of a bear, she introduced herself to everyone with a cautious but loving elbow bump, saying “Please just call me Leela. I wish I could hug you!”
Aheer is paying close attention to reducing the spread of COVID-19, having lost two family members to the virus. She explained that although she has tested negative recently, she will do whatever it takes to keep others safe, and her job places her around so many people and in so many crowds that she always wears a mask.
Aheer, who is also a professional vocal coach and teaches music in seven languages, says that she is “just a local girl” who loved Alberta enough to run for office, and encourages others who feel strongly to do so. Recently, she learned a song in Tagalog to sing with members of the local Filipino community.
Local artists Linda Kneeland and Andrea Hatch, knowing that Aheer has a background in the arts, had organized an art project for her. Kneeland guided Aheer in painting a spruce tree in a style reminiscent of Bob Ross, using oil paints and canvas. They chatted about their happy little trees as residents took pictures. “Mine kind of looks like broccoli,” Aheer laughed. Her humility is refreshing, and she thanked Kneeland by wishing she could give her a big hug, and saying that “it’s a true privilege” to paint with her.
When it came time for Aheer to speak publicly, she was introduced by Town Councillor Malcom Fischer. He called her “a real person, with a real life, who is trying to make a real difference.” He praised her advocacy for women specifically, drawing attention to legislation that Aheer introduced inspired by Clare’s Law in the UK that will allow Albertans to find out if their partner has a history of violence or abuse. Find out more about Alberta’s Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence Act here: https://www.alberta.ca/disclosing-domestic-violence-history.aspx.
Aheer stressed in her speech that she is “a regular girl who felt so much” about Alberta that she needed to get involved. “You put me here,” she continued, “and it is with tremendous humility that I stand here. People from every background, every sexuality, and every faith give me hope.” She encouraged all Albertans who feel strongly about local issues to run for office. Aheer also spoke about her trip to Stettler today, adding that she had to get out of the vehicle several times just to get a better look at the beauty of the prairie that she loves so much.
When she was finished speaking, David Guba, President of Stettler Friends of the Library Society, presented the certificate officially making Stettler a “Feature Celebration Site” for Alberta Culture Days 2020. This designation was made by Minister Aheer in recognition of our rich cultural heritage.