A committee is studying ways to recognize and engage Saanich’s multicultural communities. (Black Press File).

Saanich to improve multicultural services

Saanich plans to better recognize and engage Saanich’s multicultural communities.

Coun. Colin Plant, chair of the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, said a working group is currently exploring measures. While it is not clear yet what form those measures might take, discussions so far point towards ways to celebrate the various cultures that make up Saanich and encourage cultural diversity, as well as participation in civic affairs.

One of the purposes of the committee is to “promote effective communication, engagement and collaboration between the [municipality] and its citizens” and its terms of references call on the committee to “foster public awareness, recognition and support for multiculturalism and special events.”

According to the latest census figures, about 22 per cent of Saanich residents qualify as immigrants, and experts predict that their numbers will rise. According to Statistics Canada, immigrants will account for all of Canada’s net population growth.

About 250,000 permanent residents settle in Canada every year, and 85 per cent choose to become Canadian citizens, the highest naturalization rate in the world, according to Ballots and Belonging, a 2015 report prepared by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Immigrants, the report says, are transforming Canadian cities, large and small, including their politics.

“Newcomers arrive with different experiences in politics,” it reads. “Some are very familiar with a democratic system like Canada’s. Some were politically engaged before emigrating. Others never had the opportunity to vote in a system that offers real choice. Others connect electoral politics and politicians with deeply corrupt, ineffective regimes.”

While the committee has not yet formalized its direction for 2018, its members have already received several presentations from Saanich staff, as well as third parties, on the subject of multiculturalism.

They included a presentation from Dave Lau, executive director of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre (VIRCS). He said that municipal government has a part to play in the settlement and integration of newcomers, a point echoed in the literature.

While Ottawa and the provinces share jurisdiction over the immigration process into Canada, municipal governments bear the day-to-day burden of settling and integrating newcomers, often without specific financial support towards said end.

“Municipalities – the front-line, first responders for many immigrant needs – were given no formal role in developing federal policies and programs,” reads a 2011 report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities titled Starting on Solid Ground: The Municipal Role in Immigrant Settlement. “Municipalities big and small are looking for new ways to attract, retain and integrate newcomers, but they lack the revenue tools necessary to pay the growing costs associated with this important job.”

Recent years have seen municipal governments across the province including Saanich become more responsive and mindful of various barriers facing immigrants as they access municipal services. For example, immigrants accessing municipal services in Saanich through its website can access a translate function.

Saanich also makes swimming lessons available in Chinese and Punjabi and Leisure Involvement for Everyone (LIFE) — a program subsidizing recreational and cultural programming for eligible residents – is available in Chinese.

Saanich has also developed a partnership with VIRCS and organizes a variety of programs. But the coming direction of the committee suggests more programs could be on their way.

Just Posted

New bike facility pitched for View Royal Park

Park would encourage more youth to ride

Summit at Royal Bay helps ignite students’ passions

Students from around B.C. attended event at Royal Bay Secondary

Man struck and killed on the Pat Bay Highway

Pedestrian struck while crossing near Mount Newton X Rd in Central Saanich

WATCH: Officers recognized at 10th anniversary of anti-impaired driving program

Alexa’s Team has grown from 26 members in 2008 to the current 2,400

Greater Victoria’s living wage now costs $20.50 an hour

Cost of living increase drives region’s living wage up 49 cents, leaving you able to afford only one latte per year

WATCH: Officers recognized at 10th anniversary of anti-impaired driving program

Alexa’s Team has grown from 26 members in 2008 to the current 2,400

Saanich Police pull over Pink Flamingo

Saanich Police are reminding the public to properly tie down items after… Continue reading

COLUMN: Stanley Cup playoff second-round predictions

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins continue their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup

B.C. seeks court ruling on new pipeline regulations

Province wants to require permits for any new bitumen transport

Former child watchdog to head UBC centre on residential schools

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead university’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Saanich MLA says business world prepared her for political arena

Lana Popham says the work will never end on the equality front, but each success makes it easier for the next person

Federal Green Party leader says finances were her biggest career obstacle

Elizabeth May lists her mother as her main role model

Man dead after possible attack near Vancouver casino

A 38-year-old man with ‘serious injures’ was rushed to hospital but died in surgery

Most Read