Peterborough mayoral candidates have indicated an appreciation for the newcomers to Canada who call this city home.
Talk of their utility to an aging labour market, and their entrepreneurial spirit were listed as top benefits for the community.
Arthur spoke with mayoral candidates, Alan Wilson, Daryl Bennett, and Maryam Monsef about their opinions on this topic, as well as Peterborough Partnership Council on
Immigration Integration (PPCII) representative Hajni Hos to speak to the immigrant perspective.
Peterborough has relatively low rates of immigration, less than 1% of the total population is foreign-born according to a 2011 Statistics Canada report. For this reason, Hos remarked, “immigrant related issues might not be on the top of the priority list of City Hall.”
Yet the benefits of immigration are noted for city development. Hos said, “The City is actually one of our main partners in the PPCII and they understand that the future social, economic, cultural and environmental prosperity of Peterborough depends on its ability to successfully integrate newcomers.”
Alan Wilson is an immigrant from Ireland himself. His motivation for migrating was to escape violent conflict in Ireland during the 1980s. He has first hand knowledge of the difficulties getting credentials recognized and the frustrations that come with it. In spite of this, he feels that immigration is highly rewarding and provides a “tremendous asset to the workforce.”
Wilson stated that his economic development plan for Peterborough would see benefits spill over to immigrant communities. “If there is money made available through the city, this will help new Canadians. They are not here to fail, they are here to succeed,” he said. He felt that Peterborians should also be taught skills for listening to migrants.
Maryam Monsef immigrated to Peterborough from Afghanistan as a child. Since migrating, Monsef has attended PCVS (a former local high school) and Trent University. She stated that her own experiences with the immigrant integration were very positive. “The New Canadians Centre (NCC) was instrumental in teaching me that immigrant integration is essential for our social, environmental, cultural and financial prosperity.”
At the mayoral debate on September 24, Monsef said, “One of our greatest assets in this community is that diversity… What we need to do to harness the benefits of that diversity is be proactive.”
She would see the City’s policies, plans, and programs change to welcome and attract diverse populations.
Incumbent mayor Daryl Bennett revealed in an interview with Arthur that his grandparents were of the first wave of Irish settlers to the region. “This community was built by the immigration process,” said Bennett. He sees immigration as a huge benefit to the community, especially regarding an aging population of professionals and business owners: he would see that immigrants fill these gaps in the economy.
Bennett stated that he thinks the community is doing well offering supports to new Canadians. He would like to see immigrants integrated into the community so that they can access all of the amenities that Peterborough has to offer. He stressed that, “each person needs to be looked at as an individual.”
Patti Peeters and Tom Young
Patti Peeters and Tom Young were unavailable for interviews, unfortunately. At the mayoral debate on September 24, Peeters stressed that the growth of the city would benefit all immigrants to Peterborough, including students. She stated, “I find it absolutely heartbreaking that…there was never an opportunity given for growth. And it started back with industry battling itself, there was the effect of not wanting those who immigrated to our community to be successful… It’s time for that to stop.”
Young, at the mayoral debate, spoke to the need for good jobs to attract and retain both students and immigrants to the area.
Terry LeBlanc was absent from the debate and unavailable for contact.
Immigrant participation in the political process can be a rite of passage for some, as voting comes with citizenship. It is currently Canadian law that only citizens, and not permanent residents, are permitted to vote.
As PPCII representative Hos remarked, “Some newcomers treasure the right of voting as they come from a dictatorial country where they don`t have it.”
On the other hand, integration and understanding of Canadian political processes and language barriers may prove to be obstacles to some.
“Other newcomers are probably too busy with their lives and many might not be familiar with the election process (you need a certain level of language knowledge to understand the official documents),” said Hos.