How to build a welcoming Hamilton

Newcomers come into Hamilton to work, to study, to buy land, to find adventure or reunite with family. They bring skills, knowledge, cultures, languages and more. Whether they arrived two centuries ago or two years ago, they faced many difficulties making Hamilton their new home.

Newcomers shaped this city. They expanded the labour force, drove innovation and connected with the duties and obligations of belonging to a community. Nevertheless, newcomers face many barriers that limit their personal and economic success.

Today, Hamilton has become more multicultural, yet it has a winding narrative of discrimination and tolerance, of rejection and welcome. This is true for other cities in Canada, as well. Canada is recognizing past successes and failures and working toward becoming a nation that not only embraces diversity and inclusion, but puts them into action.

In the mid-1990s, Citizenship and Immigration Canada recognized the importance of engagement at the local level, because city organizations deliver many services that impact the integration of newcomers. In 2008, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) began funding Local Immigration Partnerships (LIP) with set goals in alignment with IRCC policy directions that were later updated.

The overall objective of LIP is to engage groups that will co-ordinate and enhance the current settlement and integration service delivery network, while avoiding duplication. The long-term vision is the ability to support multi-sectoral partnerships that will:

1. Integrate newcomers' needs into the community planning process;

2. Identify community-specific strategic priorities;

3. Implement the settlement strategy and action plans to improve newcomer outcomes.

In 2009, the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (HIPC) was formed under the auspices of Hamilton's community and emergency services department, to address the challenges of immigration and to make this a more welcoming community.

During the past eight years, HIPC has played a leading, catalyzing and facilitating role that has successfully forged strong and lasting partnerships toward successful integration of newcomers to Hamilton and the creation of a welcoming community.

HIPC has forged strong partnerships with various stakeholders. HIPC consists of 85 partners including boards of education, health institutions, academia, community/settlement agencies, social service sectors, businesses, residents, interest groups and various levels of government representatives.

HIPC conducted research on Hamilton's demographics, labour market, and economy and settlement services in collaboration with the Social Planning Research Council, Pathways to Prosperity, University of Western Ontario and other academia. These studies are now published on the HIPC website, along with a wealth of tools and information for newcomers.

HIPC, Workforce Planning Hamilton, Global Hamilton and The Hamilton Spectator are partnering on a media series entitled Hamilton at Work. A monthly profile is co-ordinated and published featuring newcomers who are contributing to the Hamilton economy in different ways and that showcase successful professionals, entrepreneurs and volunteers.

Building on #TorontoForAll and #AjaxfForAll campaigns #HamiltonForAll purposes to stimulate dialogue and open minds by encouraging Hamiltonians to stand up against prejudice, exclusion and discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion, country of origin, disability, sexual orientation or other differences.

HIPC partnered with Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion and launched the first phase of the #HamiltonForAll campaign in November 2017, which aims at celebrating diversity, inspiring Hamilton residents to connect with and welcome newcomers and reduce myths and misconceptions.

These are among other achievements of HIPC. However, more work is to be done, and HIPC is committed to move the agenda and forge new partnerships toward eliminating barriers and deeply integrating newcomers to our city.

In 2016, HIPC engaged in an extensive strategic planning process and identified its vision and three strategic objectives for 2017 to 2020:

1. Newcomers are supported through strong community partnerships;

2. Hamilton is a responsive, welcoming and inclusive community;

3. HIPC is a leader in immigration research and knowledge sharing.

Vision: Hamilton welcomes newcomers, celebrates diversity and is a place for everyone to call home.

The statement is clear and focused, and there is shared ownership and commitment by the HIPC partners. Also, thanks to the launch of the #HamiltonForAll campaign, there is now momentum and interest from the larger community.

Here are a couple of ways residents can engage in welcoming, inclusive actions across the city:

· Share a welcoming message via social media #HamiltonForAll

· Submit an activity you or your community has done to welcome newcomers via the activity tracker www.hamiltonforall.ca

These messages and actions will be highlighted at the Hamilton's first Newcomers Day in May.

We all love our great city, yet it struggles with fully-embracing one of our greatest assets — our immigrant population. A city's identity is what makes it stand out from other cities. HIPC's goal is to make Hamilton the most welcoming city in Canada.

Sadhna Jayatunge produced this commentary on behalf of Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council.

Email: Immigration.Partnership@hamilton.ca

2018-02-20 14:26