B.C. suburb with country’s largest proportion of immigrants unveils ‘cultural harmony’ strategy

November 22, 2019

By National Post |

A Vancouver suburb that boasts the largest proportion of immigrants anywhere in Canada has unveiled the final draft of its “cultural harmony” strategy, which officials hope will bring together residents and ease social tensions.

While the slate of initiatives recommended by Richmond city staff include no-brainers, such as the promotion of intercultural activities and celebration of the arts, it also contains more ambitious goals, such as recruiting employees who reflect the population they serve and developing a policy to ensure under-represented communities have greater say in the city’s decisions.

Reaction to the 10-year plan has been mixed. At a public meeting Monday night, some city councillors said they wanted to see more emphasis on “Canadian values” — a loaded phrase that is open to broad interpretation and that some have derided as divisive rhetoric. Some community observers told the Post they feared certain initiatives were being put off too far into the future, while others said the document seemed to use “pleasant-sounding language” to paper over real community differences.

One thing is clear: the pressure is on to get this blueprint for social cohesion right.

“Many people are watching us,” Councillor Linda McPhail said.

Sixty per cent of Richmond’s 227,000 residents were born outside of Canada. China remains the top country of origin among recent immigrants, followed by the Philippines. Close to three-quarters of the city’s newcomers speak a language other than English or French at home, with Mandarin and Cantonese being the most common.

The changing demographics have resulted in a city that champions diversity but whose residents often live parallel lives that “slide by each other” without intersecting — maybe except at the Costco parking lot, said Andy Yan, director of the Simon Fraser University City Program. John Rose, a human geography instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, calls it “proximity without community.”

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