Our diversity makes Kitchener stronger. We need to embrace it and nurture it so that our diversity is reflected throughout our city and strengthens our tapestry. There is work to be done especially to ensure people of colour are not treated differently for that reason.

In my January column for The Community Edition, I wrote:

According to the 2016 census, 19 per cent of people living in the Waterloo Region are people of colour. But do our day-to-day experiences reflect that diversity?

I acknowledge that I write this column from my perspective as a white man. I am working to inform my perspective and my life with the input, insights and lived experiences shared by people of colour on social media and who I engage with in the local community.

I look around me at many events and activities and see only white people or even a vast white majority. I know that doesn’t accurately represent the diversity of our community. While I recognize that’s not intentional, it happens because those barriers are still in place. It’s easier to reach people that are in your own social networks, rather than proactively reaching out beyond them.

So as we move into 2018, that means all of us need to be more conscious of how our businesses, organizations, social programs and even how we, as a community, can better reflect the reality of the diverse community we live in.

Let’s all resolve to “think diversity” and take the appropriate steps to be more inclusive. The more we do, the more everyone benefits.

So that is the approach I took when asked how as a City Councillor I’d approach services that assist newcomers to Canada.

Immigration Waterloo Region candidate survey

Ahead of the October 2018 Municipal Election, the Immigration Partnership asked all election candidates in Waterloo Region to share their responses to three questions. Of the four Ward 3 candidates, I am one of two that responded.

Here are my answers

  1. If elected, how will you work with the Immigration Partnership and other stakeholders to
    ensure the community has the supports and conditions it needs for newcomers to successfully settle, work and belong?

Ward 3 is home to many newcomers to Canada when they arrive in Kitchener. As I have done so when working for the YMCAs of Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge and at Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank, I will work to ensure newcomers have the support they need to settle, work and belong in our city. I’d pay particular attention to programs and services delivered by the city especially in neighbourhoods with community centres such as Kingsdale and Courtland-Shelley. I have already worked to help Traynor-Vanier residents to make their voices heard about the need for a LRT crossing to return the neighbourhoods walkability and a result the crossing has been expedited.

2.  If elected, how will you address the affordability of public transit for newcomers and other people living on low income in Waterloo Region?

This question is best for those who are running for Regional Council.

Personally, I’m in favour of allowing children up to age 12 to ride free instead of age 4. If the TTC can do it, we can too. I also like the idea in principle of providing free passes to people living on low incomes. Both measures would increase ridership and make it easier for people to get around when it is too far or not possible to ride a bike or walk.

As a City Councillor, my impact on these issues is indirect but I’d look for opportunities to advocate for them with my Regional colleagues.

3. Do you support permanent residents voting in municipal elections and what steps would you take to address this locally if elected?

Yes, I support voting rights for permanent residents in municipal elections. In August, I wrote in The Community Edition:

Municipal government is so vital to how we live, that the topic of this column was intended to make the case for allowing permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. A permanent resident is someone from another country who has been given permission to live and work in Canada without being a citizen. They pay municipal property taxes and their daily lives are as affected as the rest of us but they have can not vote for who is on school boards or municipal councils. In Waterloo Region, that is up to 33,000 people or about six per cent of the total population who have no voice in selecting who is elected.

Cities across Canada, including Toronto and Hamilton have proposed giving permanent residents the right to vote.

That decision is up to the provincial government but I’d support a motion to request the change. I’m pessimistic it would be heard by the current government.

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