Global cities around the world look to Toronto to understand and learn from our ongoing experiment with diversity. For instance, in 2008 the Toronto District School Board was held up as a global model for successful social integration and equal opportunities for schools when it was awarded the prestigious international Carl Bertelsmann Prize. The City of Toronto is one of the few international cities of migration that provides information to city residents in 180 languages on services such as recycling, garbage and municipal elections. The Toronto Public Library has successfully turned itself into an institution that not only lends books, but also provides settlement services to its many immigrant visitors.
However, lest we start feeling totally virtuous, we need to remember that Toronto has still a long way to go before claiming success. To do so, it must be open to learning from other cities. While we have much to offer to global cities, we also have much to learn from them.
For the past 18 months we’ve been working with international partners in the UK, New Zealand, the US, Germany and Spain to help cities better connect around their shared issues of urbanization and migration. Now, there is an organized way for London to learn from Toronto, and for Toronto to learn from Zurich. At Cities of Migration, cities can learn about and share their good ideas in integration. Cities of Migration is helping cities learn from each other and transporting successful ideas from one place to another.
In October, Toronto will go to The Hague to learn from practitioners from far flung cities like Malmo, Madrid and Moscow. We invite you to join us as we listen to and talk with leaders drawn from urban planning, local governments, media, employers and academics in this agenda-packed gathering.
To learn more about the upcoming Cities of Migration conference, visit the conference website.
Does it matter that one in seven Torontonians is barred from voting in the upcoming municipal election?
Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki thinks so. In his article, Toronto’s Disenfranchised Voters, just published in the online magazine The Mark, he argues that keeping Toronto residents from voting in the municipal election just because they’re not Canadian citizens is a big mistake. According to the 2006 Census there are 380,135 non-Canadian citizen residents – that is more than 15% who have no say in how they are governed, how their children’s schools are run, and how their property taxes are being spent.
However, there is a growing movement to change this inequity. In particular, professor Siemiatycki points to I Vote Toronto as a worthwhile campaign to bring about change.
On March 8, Desmond Cole, project coordinator of the I Vote Toronto campaign, was on TV Ontario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin to make the case for extending municipal voting rights to permanent residents.
Professor Siemiatycki finishes his article by asking what we gain by NOT giving the municipal vote to permanent non-citizen residents in Toronto. Especially considering that more than 40 countries already do so. He can’t think of any reason why we should continue to prevent them from voting. And neither can we.