I just returned from a conference organized by Spanish think tank MENARA, a project of Fundación Tres Culturas. This transnational conference was one in a series of meetings this year that examined themes like the relationship between entrepreneurship or citizenship and diversity.
At the conference, I learned about the inspiring work of others, and shared what we’re doing at Maytree, in Toronto, across the country, and beyond.
Here are five Toronto ideas that inspired MENARA participants in Spain.
1. The idea of immigration, and the diversity that comes with it, is enshrined in Canadian laws, but it’s also embraced in our culture. We consider diversity and immigration Canadian values, like politeness. As a defining feature, immigration doesn’t become part of a political campaign. Canada has no political party running on an anti-immigrant platform.
2. We frame immigration and diversity as assets, not as a problem. They are not a social ill that needs to be managed, and immigrants aren’t viewed as an additional strain on resources. We quantify the contribution of immigrants, as we do the loss that results when they are not able to contribute professionally to the best of their abilities.
3. Immigration and diversity are not exclusively the concern of governments or the social sector. Solutions are proposed by business champions, making the work of immigrant integration and inclusion multi-sectoral.
4. We recognize that integration requires participation and interaction. That means ensuring that diverse voices and representatives are present in public spaces, able to make connections within society, and be active in civic life.
5. We know that within each community or neighbourhood there are potential leaders who can provide both representation and role models. Enhancing their development is a key strategy in our work.
But, of course, there is always more to learn.
Unlike most other OECD countries, Canada has no national housing, transit, child nutrition or child care strategies. While these would not be aimed exclusively at immigrants, they would certainly contribute to their integration and success.
We also have much to learn from each other – city to city. That is a my key take away from the MENARA conference. Government officials, foundation partners, students, academics and immigrants want to be connected to each other and to good ideas in immigrant integration. They will continue to look at Cities of Migration, in particular, as a platform for exchange.
Expect more stories and more connections from Andalucia.