Municipal Monitor Q1 2017 | Page 28

The City of Brampton ’ s blue ribbon panel is tasked with establishing a university in Brampton . Back row , left to right : S . Rana , G . Bajwa , N . Mohammed , D . Wright , R . Dhaliwal , N . Davis , J . Massey-Singh , G . Dhillon , M . Ball , R . Khatkar Front row , left to right : T . Miller , M . Medeiros , W . Davis , Mayor L . Jeffrey , G . Miles , M . Singh Saini​
municipality to make sure that we are a destination of choice for these talented people ,” says Chait .
“ There are no drawbacks ; there are challenges ,” he says . “ These are tailoring our municipal services so they are meaningful and helpful to our new population so that we can continue to provide a high quality of life and continued growth and prosperity for our whole population .”
Markham has a diversity action plan , Everyone Welcome , that highlights the connections between Markham ’ s rural roots , its suburban history and its present as a multicultural metropolis in its own right . The plan focuses on four groups : youth , seniors , newcomers and visible minorities , and persons with disabilities . “ It provides a blueprint for how to engage with a diverse population ,” says Chait .
Everyone Welcome identifies areas to be addressed . For newcomers , these are language barriers , cultural norms , communications , navigation of the system and affordable housing . For visible minorities who may be well integrated multi-generation residents , the priorities are policies and procedures to identify and combat racism and discrimination , and the employment cycle .
“ It addresses the importance of tailoring services at all levels ,” says Chait . Sometimes , this requires doing things in new ways . For example , Markham holds its public meetings
26 Q1 2017 www . amcto . com in non-traditional spaces , and was a leader in electronic voting .
Sometimes , it means adapting or adding on to existing services . In partnership with other levels of government , Markham has several reception centres that act as onestop shops for language , employment and other settlement services . In Markham ’ s community centres , Chait says , “ we respect the cultural or religious requirements of various groups ; for instance , allowing for a level of screening or modesty for women who might not access sports programs if they had to do it in a mixed-gender setting .”
The municipality has nurtured festivals and other programming that engages the full spectrum of residents . Its public library system offers an increasingly multilingual collection , along with seminars and workshops on topics like housing opportunities and career training .
“ That may seem to some people like a cost ; we see it as an investment ,” says Chait . “ Addressing the new diversity is to our advantage as a municipality that needs to grow its economic base and continued tax base .”
Brampton “ We know that in order for us to prosper , we need to grow our population . We ’ re not going to grow naturally without immigration ,” says City of Brampton CAO Harry Schlange . “ Our objective is
to get to a point where serving the distinct needs of our community is part of our municipality ’ s DNA . We have sent a strong signal to all of our leaders that municipal employees need to understand our community in order to provide the best services possible . We recognize in Brampton this requires unique approaches and solutions .”
The 2011 census gives Brampton ’ s total population as 523,911 , with a relatively young median age of 34.7 and 225,065 residents who report a mother tongue other than English or French .
“ Council has approved that we communicate in multiple languages ,” says Erin O ’ Hoski , Brampton ’ s director of strategic communication . Thus , municipal publications are available in Punjabi , Urdu , Portuguese and Gujarati , along with English and French .
“ I have what most mayors would kill for : very young , very diverse , very well educated — and it ’ s only going to grow ,” says Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey . “ It ’ s a huge advantage . The challenge is to change the way the City does its business .”
Brampton has reaped significant benefits from that “ huge advantage .” Brampton placed first among mid-sized cities for foreign direct investment in the 2015 / 2016 American Cities of the Future report . In the 2013 / 14 FDI Intelligence rankings , Brampton was second in the business-friendly city