By Lindsay Kelly
For Northern Life
When Grenada-born Jean Augustine arrived in Canada in 1960, it was the small gestures that made her feel welcome: neighbours who said hello on the street, friends who demonstrated how to shovel the driveway, and members of the black community who showed her where to buy face powder and stockings to match her skin colour.
With the launch of Greater Sudbury's local immigrant settlement strategy last week, Augustine, Ontario's fairness commissioner, urged Sudburians to reach out to newcomers with similar gestures to make their arrival and integration a more welcoming experience.
“Businesses and social organizations must continue to work together to attract newcomers and to help them start that new life,” Augustine said. “Make sure immigrants feel welcome, that their kids can integrate happily in school, that they can find help getting around, and that (we) are good neighbours and welcoming hosts.”
Creating a Sanctuary for New Citizens, the 106-page settlement strategy prepared by the Greater Sudbury Local Immigration Partnership (LIP), outlines tangible actions the city can take to create an environment that enhances diversity.
Employment, housing, education, language services, and social inclusion are among the areas of focus in the strategy, which will be implemented in collaboration with community groups, businesses, and associations. Input for the strategy was gleaned from a variety of stakeholder groups over the last three years.
Carlos Siller and his wife, Guadalupe Luna de Siller, who came to Sudbury from Mexico City five years ago, have found integration into northern Ontario a challenge at times, but they believe that embracing the differences between the two cultures makes a big difference.
Carlos has since established his own consultation company, CONSI, while Guadalupe runs Mrs. Vanelli's Fresh Italian Foods in the New Sudbury Shopping Centre.
They view the strategy as a good start to Sudbury becoming a more hospitable city for newcomers.
“It's going to be more easy for my kids, as they are getting more into the Canadian ways and Canadian culture,” Carlos said. “It's very open, it's multicultural, and that's good. We try to respect the Canadian ways, and not to impose our own culture.”
Figures from Statistics Canada show that, in 2010, 63 per cent of new immigrants settled in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, lured by a plethora of services, job opportunities and multiculturalism. Only 31 per cent chose to settle in smaller cities, while six per cent chose towns or rural Canada.
Diversity needs to be embraced by the community in order for Sudbury's strategy to be a success, said Scott Fisher, LIP project co-ordinator. Ultimately, the goal is to buck the downward trend and encourage more immigrants to view Sudbury as their primary destination of choice. The city can do that by playing up advantages like its strong education sector and natural beauty, he said.
“This report will be effective only if work together as a community, only if we work together in achieving common goals, and only if we work together to make Sudbury a place that is more welcoming to newcomers, a place that is a destination of choice,” Fisher said. “It is only then that this document will meet some of its goals and become what it should become.”
Fisher said the strategy should be viewed as a living document that will change and grow as the city changes and grows. An annual community forum will be held to evaluate the plan and solicit input from stakeholders, with the document adapted accordingly.
Posted by Laurel Myers