Wel­com­ing the world to Hamilton

Dutch-born mayor is proud we wel­come refugees and im­mi­grants

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - FRED EISEN­BERGER Fred Eisen­berger is mayor of the city of Hamilton

Hess Street El­e­men­tary School has stu­dents from more than 30 coun­tries, speak­ing more than 35 dif­fer­ent lan­guages.

Born in Am­s­ter­dam and im­mi­grat­ing to Canada with my fam­ily as an eightyear-old, speak­ing not a word of English, I un­der­stand the new­comer ex­pe­ri­ence. As an im­mi­grant fam­ily in the 1960s, I grew up in so­cial hous­ing and poverty in the McQuesten neigh­bour­hood of Hamilton.

Re­cent events have led some to ques­tion the value of im­mi­gra­tion. Oth­ers have openly spec­u­lated as to why we have wel­comed refugees to our coun­try and our com­mu­nity.

Canada is a coun­try of im­mi­grants, of new­com­ers. They con­trib­ute im­mea­sur­ably to the rich diver­sity which makes this coun­try the envy of the world; bilin­gual, mul­ti­cul­tural and a safe haven for refugees and new­com­ers from around the globe.

Ac­cord­ing to Stat­sCan, one out of five peo­ple in Canada is born out­side the coun­try. With some nearly seven mil­lion im­mi­grants, for­eign-born Cana­di­ans rep­re­sent just over 20 per cent of Canada’s pop­u­la­tion. Fur­ther, they tell us there are more than 200 self-re­ported eth­nic groups in Canada.

Hamilton is the third-largest city in On­tario and the tenth-largest city in Canada with al­most 25 per cent of its res­i­dents born out­side of Canada. Hamilton has been ranked the third­most di­verse ur­ban­ized area in Canada. There are more than 5,000 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in the city adding to the diver­sity of our lo­cal cam­puses. Hamilton con­tin­ues to be a sig­nif­i­cant se­condary des­ti­na­tion for im­mi­grants.

The Gov­ern­ment of Canada re­ports re­set­tle­ment of nearly 40,000 Syr­ian new­com­ers in more than 350 com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try be­tween No- vem­ber 2015 and Jan­uary 2017. On­tario re­ceived nearly 17,000, or 42 per cent, of the na­tional to­tal, out of which 1,491, or 4 per cent of the na­tional to­tal, have since called Hamilton home.

The Mayor’s Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on Syr­ian New­com­ers and its work­ing groups con­tinue to suc­cess­fully col­lab­o­rate to re­set­tle and in­te­grate new­com­ers in Hamilton. The progress of the work­ing groups and the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee to date has demon­strated the im­por­tance of strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tion, com­mu­nity mo­bi­liza­tion, and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing to sup­port the short-term and long-term needs of all new­com­ers. Key is­sues, chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties con­tinue to be jointly dis­cussed and ad­dressed as we con­tinue to move for­ward to­gether.

This work has not been with­out its chal­lenges. We are grate­ful to all of the agen­cies and or­ga­ni­za­tions that are in en­gaged in set­tle­ment ser­vices and in serv­ing our new­com­ers. We ap­pre­ci­ate the gen­eros­ity of Hamil­to­ni­ans across the city that have as groups, f am­i­lies, con­gre­ga­tions and neigh­bour­hoods ral­lied be­hind the re­set­tle­ment ef­forts and who have joined in spon­sor­ing and sup­port­ing our new­com­ers.

Here in our city the Hamilton Im­mi­gra­tion Part­ner­ship Coun­cil (HIPC) has as its vi­sion that Hamilton wel­comes new­com­ers, cel­e­brates diver­sity and is a place for ev­ery­one to call home. HIPC sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal part­ner­ships and com­mu­nity-based plan­ning around the needs of im­mi­grants. First launched in 1999, HIPC brings to­gether lo­cal gov­ern­ment, com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, im­mi­grant-serv­ing agen­cies, lan­guage train­ing bod­ies, busi­ness net­works, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, me­dia, em­ploy­ers, and the fran­co­phone com­mu­nity. To­day HIPC is com­prised of com­mu­nity lead­ers rep­re­sent­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide ser­vices to, or have an in­ter­est in wel­com­ing, new­com­ers to the city.

Hamilton is com­mit­ted to be­ing the best place to raise a child and age suc­cess­fully. The re­cent in­flux of nearly 1,500 Syr­ian refugees in­cluded more than 500 chil­dren.

Hess Street El­e­men­tary School has stu­dents from more than 30 coun­tries, speak­ing more than 35 dif­fer­ent lan­guages. More than 75 per cent of the chil­dren speak some­thing other than English as a first lan­guage. At nearby Sir John A. Macdon­ald H.S. the stu­dent body rep­re­sents some 80 coun­tries speak­ing more than 50 lan­guages.

Hamilton has long wel­comed waves of refugees, an­swer­ing the call to of­fer refuge to those seek­ing safety and a new life in Canada.

When events in Viet­nam cre­ated an ex­o­dus and pre­cip­i­tated the “Viet­namese Boat Peo­ple” cri­sis of the 1970s, Hamil­to­ni­ans ral­lied to wel­come them. Hun­dreds of in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies stepped for­ward to spon­sor fam­i­lies as they set­tled in the city.

As the hor­rors of the Kh­mer Rouge and the Cam­bo­dian geno­cide sur­faced in the 1970s, Canada and Hamilton opened their doors once again to ex­tend wel­come to hun­dreds of Cam­bo­di­ans.

Hun­dreds of refugees ar­rived i n Hamilton from Cen­tral and South Amer­ica dur­ing the 1980s seek­ing safety.

In re­sponse to the Kosovo cri­sis, Canada re­ceived more than 5,500 Al­ba­nian Koso­var refugees in 1999. Many found safety here as Hamil­to­ni­ans once again ral­lied to the call for help.

In 2003 we be­gan to re­ceive So­mali refugees as the sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated in So­ma­lia. Ap­prox­i­mately 380 So­mali refugees found their way to Hamilton.

Still oth­ers have ar­rived from Myan­mar, East Ti­mor, Ethiopia, Su­dan — sadly the list goes on — in search of a new life in Hamilton.

Hamilton will con­tinue to of­fer a refuge and a home to all those who seek safety and free­dom from vi­o­lence, per­se­cu­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Hamilton re­mains a home in which they can ful­fil their dreams and as­pi­ra­tions; a place to raise a fam­ily. Each gen­er­a­tion of new­com­ers is wo­ven into the in­tri­cate and di­verse fab­ric of our com­mu­nity. They are Hamilton.

My re­cent nom­i­na­tion as a World Mayor in 2016 rep­re­sents far more than a per­sonal honour — rather, it’s a richly de­served recog­ni­tion of the gen­eros­ity of all Hamil­to­ni­ans and a tribute to the in­domitable spirit of our new­comer com­mu­nity. Hamilton is for ev­ery­one.

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