Archive for December, 2010

December 8, 2010

A welcoming community for immigrants

Mayor Ford made headlines in the recent municipal campaign when he said “enough’s enough” to a question on Tamil immigrants, citing official plan’s projected growth of another million residents in Toronto within the next ten years.

(A quick reality check: Our slowed population growth of 0.9% between the 2001 and 2006 censuses led to total growth of only 22,000 more people. The number of Canadian newcomers choosing to settle in Toronto has slowed dramatically.)

However, many Ontario communities are strategizing how to attract more immigrants, seeing their skills and numbers as an aid to their smaller city centres.

Funded through Citizenship Immigration Canada, Local Immigration Partnerships have emerged in 34 communities, aimed at creating more effective strategies and welcoming environments for Canadian newcomers. (Conflict of interest declaration: I am managing one neighbourhood-based LIP here in Toronto.)

Municipal governments, school boards, United Ways, and community agencies have begun meeting in North Bay, Thunder Bay, London, Windsor, Hamilton, Kingston and Ottawa, among others. They describe the work as a necessary effort for population renewal to boost their economies, fill labour needs, and slow population decline.

Vicky Esses, a professor at University of Western Ontario, is leading a project to define what works to “optimize social, cultural and political integration.” In a recent presentation to the Centre for Excellence in Research in Immigrant Studies (CERIS),  Esses suggested the following key elements are needed:

1. Employment Opportunities

2. Fostering of Social Capital

3. Affordable and Suitable Housing

4. Positive Attitudes toward Immigrants, Cultural Diversity, and the Presence of Newcomers

5. Presence of Newcomer-Serving Agencies

6. Links between Main Actors

7. Municipal Features and Services Sensitive to the Presence and Needs of Newcomers

8. Educational Opportunities

9. Accessible and Suitable Health Care

10.Available and Accessible Public Transit

11. Presence of Diverse Religious Organizations

12. Social Engagement Opportunities

13. Political Participation Opportunities

14. Positive Relationships with the Police and the Justice System

15. Safety

16. Opportunities for Use of Public Space and Recreation Facilities

17. Favourable Media Coverage

Together with Professor Livianna Tossutti, Esses’ work will now prioritize these parts of public life and develop ways to measure the health of them.

The Welcoming Communities Initiative, of which Esses and Tossutti’s work is a part, will be looking at the success of these projects across the small and medium cities in the province. It may well have lessons for Toronto as well.

In fact, Citizenship Immigration Canada is now funding a city-wide LIP in Toronto, which has among other parts, undertaken to develop a Toronto Newcomer Strategy.

December 1, 2010

How scared should we be about bed bugs?

Adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius

Image via Wikipedia

Knowing I work at WoodGreen Community Services, which has been on the forefront of the bedbug issue for a while, a friend asked me how nervous she should be about going to a movie theatre that night.

Her fear sprang from the furor causes when a tweet wrongly accused Scotiabank Theatre of harbouring bed bugs and the widespread media coverage how the bugs are sweeping Manhattan’s toniest locations.

“Or how about subways and street cars?” she asked.

“Go,” I said. “If you’re nervous, strip off when you get home, bag your clothes and then launder and dry them.”

We are not (yet) at the point you have to stop going out into public spaces.

Some activities are riskier, such as

  • moving residences (especially if it’s into an apartment building — so make sure to ask),
  • travelling (check those head boards and mattress seams), or
  • picking up second-hand furniture off the street (no more boulevard shopping).

I still trust the Toronto Transit Commission – especially safe in the winter when most of its vehicles sit outside overnight, freezing. And I think movie theatres – and other entertainment venues – were so shaken by the Twitter furor, that I expect discreet inspections are done regularly.

The good news, this week, was the attention that bed bugs generated at the municipal and provincial levels. If we manage our own surroundings cautiously and if coordinated and proactive actions are taken, bed bugs will be well-managed.

A community bed bug committee, composed of residents, tenant associations, non-profits, government reps and broader networks recently adopted a “Bedbug Mani-pest-o” outlining five key points:

  1. Build a public education campaign to raise awareness on the rising incidence of bed bug infestations, the methods of dealing with them and to de-stigmatize bed bugs
  2. Establish standard protocols for treatment of bed bugs
  3. Develop and promote a consistent community response that includes funds to support vulnerable populations to reduce financial barriers to eradicate bed bugs
  4. Conduct widespread monitoring of bed bug incidences across the Province
  5. Draft and enact legislative policies that support quick and effective responses to bed bugs

Liberal M.P.P. Mike Colle has taken almost all of these and built them into his recommendations to the province, only shying away from the legislative piece.

N.D.P. Cheri DiNovo has introduced a bill to license landlords.

The Toronto Board of Health and the City of Toronto are both lobbying for more resources, arguing that early interventions will ensure bed bugs don’t spread further.

Solutions are emerging.

For the moment, we can sleep tight. Just don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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