What it means to be­long A sense of be­long­ing helps build safe, vi­brant com­mu­ni­ties and brings pur­pose to our lives. Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tions of Canada ex­plores how we can fos­ter be­long­ing through­out the coun­try.

The Walrus - - A SPECIAL COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS OF CANADA SUPPLEME - by An­drew Chu­ni­lall, CEO, Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tions of Canada

This year, Cana­di­ans are mark­ing our coun­try’s 150th an­niver­sary of Con­fed­er­a­tion. For some, this is an op­por­tu­nity to dream big about our col­lec­tive fu­ture. For oth­ers, the sesqui­cen­ten­nial is rais­ing ques­tions about our past and spark­ing im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions around the idea of who be­longs and what builds be­long­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties. As a coun­try with mul­ti­cul­tural and mul­ti­lin­gual roots, Canada has long been en­gaged in a de­bate about the topic of be­long­ing. But, re­cent re­search sug­gests that con­ver­sa­tion is more im­por­tant now than ever. To­day, one-third of Cana­di­ans re­port a weak sense of com­mu­nity be­long­ing. One of the most press­ing ur­ban is­sues is a sense of iso­la­tion, lone­li­ness, and dis­con­nec­tion, ac­cord­ing to a study by Van­cou­ver Foun­da­tion. How did we get here? Com­mu­ni­ties to­day are very dif­fer­ent from those that cel­e­brated — and con­tested — Canada’s cen­ten­nial in 1967. More than half of Cana­di­ans no longer live in the com­mu­nity in which they grew up. Our econ­omy is more ur­ban and ser­vice­ori­ented. Our fam­i­lies are smaller. We vote less and work more. We live longer. Our pop­u­la­tion has aged sig­nif­i­cantly. And, while we may have more ways to con­nect these days, we spend less faceto-face time with the peo­ple we know. We also con­tinue to strug­gle with is­sues of ac­cep­tance. Peo­ple in mi­nor­ity-of­fi­cial-lan­guage com­mu­ni­ties still have dif­fi­culty ac­cess­ing ser­vices in their lan­guage. A large num­ber of Cana­di­ans who iden­tify as vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties ex­pe­ri­ence racial dis­crim­i­na­tion when ap­ply­ing for work op­por­tu­ni­ties or hous­ing. And this is to say noth­ing of the long jour­ney to ac­knowl­edge the coun­try’s colo­nial his­tory and our shared path to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Van­cou­ver Foun­da­tion’s re­search led Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tions of Canada to look more closely at the is­sue of be­long­ing through Vi­tal Signs, a na­tional pro­gram that uses com­mu­nity data to pro­vide a fo­cus for public de­bate and civic en­gage­ment. What has emerged is an un­der­stand­ing that be­long­ing is re­ally a two-way street: it is about how much peo­ple fit in, but it’s also about how much they’re wel­comed. When com­mu­ni­ties are made up of peo­ple who trust each other and feel that they be­long, good things hap­pen: in­di­vid­u­als are health­ier, neigh­bour­hoods are safer, cul­tures and iden­ti­ties flourish, and so­ci­eties bounce back af­ter emer­gen­cies. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is not just about com­mu­nity involvement. What’s clear is that, if we are go­ing to cul­ti­vate be­long­ing in Canada, we must strengthen our re­la­tion­ships with the peo­ple around us and en­sure that we are wel­com­ing to dif­fer­ence and di­ver­sity. This will only be­come more ev­i­dent

as Canada con­tin­ues to evolve into a coun­try of large ur­ban cen­tres with grow­ing vis­i­ble-mi­nor­ity, Indige­nous, and new­comer pop­u­la­tions. We have a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to open up the ur­gent and deep con­ver­sa­tions that must oc­cur in our com­mu­ni­ties right now. Be­long­ing con­nects to some of to­day’s most press­ing con­ver­sa­tions about refugee set­tle­ment, work­place di­ver­sity, gen­der equal­ity, and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. We must en­cour­age so­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion while rec­og­niz­ing and tran­scend­ing the bar­ri­ers, both overt and hid­den, that pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing. This in­cludes im­prov­ing the sys­tems that un­der­pin our so­ci­ety and in­flu­enc­ing the ways in which peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence be­long­ing or non-be­long­ing ev­ery day. Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial of­fers us an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on the many ways in which we can build the foun­da­tions of be­long­ing, not just through laws and poli­cies, but also through lo­cal lead­er­ship and in­vest­ments that help strengthen re­la­tion­ships be­tween neigh­bours, co­work­ers, fam­i­lies, and friends. The coun­try is in a unique po­si­tion on the global stage to show how mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and plu­ral­ism can bring com­mu­ni­ties to­gether, ad­vance eco­nomic pros­per­ity through in­no­va­tion, and deepen cul­tural aware­ness. Look­ing back at the scale of change over the past 150 years, it’s hard not to won­der where Canada’s com­mu­ni­ties will be in the fu­ture. That’s why it’s vi­tally im­por­tant for us to ex­am­ine how we can work to­gether to cre­ate a more wel­com­ing so­ci­ety. Be­long­ing, af­ter all, is not just a feel­ing; it’s a pow­er­ful cat­a­lyst for health­ier com­mu­ni­ties and a more in­clu­sive Canada.

BE­LONG­ING: EX­PLOR­ING CON­NEC­TION TO COM­MU­NITY For more in­for­ma­tion about our three-year jour­ney ex­plor­ing be­long­ing in Canada, visit com­mu­ni­ty­foun­da­tions.ca/vi­tal­signs

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