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

‘More animals could have a chance:’ Victoria Humane Society in desperate need of a home

Animal rescue currently has 163 animals in foster and volunteer homes

Free-B Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary

Head to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park to see some family favourites on the big screen

Join North Saanich invasives removal and experience three key benefits

Friends of North Saanich Parks says July 27 clear-up will be rewarding as well as green

Central Saanich accused of not following Climate Emergency declaration with urgent action

Motion to research climate response options and costs rejected then rescheduled in tense meeting

Esquimalt gives six-storey rental complex the green light

A new apartment building is set to go up on Admirals Road

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read