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This article was published 14/8/2018 (1130 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A campaign is underway to get eligible newcomers to vote in the Oct. 24 municipal election.
"Got citizenship? Go vote!" is using posters, brochures and social media to connect with Winnipeg's ethnocultural communities.
"One in four of Winnipeg's population are immigrants and about 90 per cent of them are voting age," said Abdikheir Ahmed, director of Immigration Partnership Winnipeg. Many who could vote don't because they're not educated or aware of the voting process, said Ahmed.
The non-partisan group plans a training session Aug. 29 for ethnocultural community leaders to share information with their members, and a mayoral forum Sept. 22 on immigrant and refugee issues. The campaign is using a variety of social media platforms, said Shereen Denetto with Immigration Partnership Winnipeg's civic engagement working group.
"Our communities are very tech-savvy," said Denetto. "We've come up with multiple ways of communicating."
Volunteers produced an educational video in 12 languages that shares basic information about the municipal election — that a mayor, city councillors and school trustees will be elected, how to find out if you're eligible to vote and why it is important to vote.
MP's COMMENTS PROTESTED
Is Canada too diverse? With the second week of Folklorama in full swing and more than 90 ethnocultural groups and organizations in this city alone, a Quebec MP's tweets warning Canadians about the danger of too much diversity sound "insane" to one community leader.
Is Canada too diverse?
With the second week of Folklorama in full swing and more than 90 ethnocultural groups and organizations in this city alone, a Quebec MP's tweets warning Canadians about the danger of too much diversity sound "insane" to one community leader.
"We have people from all over the world," said Abdikheir Ahmed, right before the launch of the non-partisan, donation-driven Got Citizenship? Go Vote! campaign trying to get more newcomers out to vote in the Oct. 24 municipal election.
MP Maxime Bernier faced sharp criticism from his own Conservative caucus for tweeting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promotion of multiculturalism and "cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa."
The knowledge, ideas and entrepreneurship that newcomers from around the world contribute can be seen economically and culturally throughout the city and across Canada, said Ahmed.
"Saying 'diversity is a drain on our country' is totally wrong," he said.
1/ Trudeau keeps pushing his “diversity is our strength” slogan. Yes, Canada is a huge and diverse country. This diversity is part of us and should be celebrated. But where do we draw the line?— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) August 13, 2018
Diversity is what makes Canada strong: Trudeau https://t.co/dZmCffRBFY
2/ Ethnic, religious, linguistic, sexual and other minorities were unjustly repressed in the past. We’ve done a lot to redress those injustices and give everyone equal rights. Canada is today one of the countries where people have the most freedom to express their identity.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) August 13, 2018
3/ But why should we promote ever more diversity? If anything and everything is Canadian, does being Canadian mean something? Shouldn’t we emphasize our cultural traditions, what we have built and have in common, what makes us different from other cultures and societies?— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) August 13, 2018
4/ Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) August 13, 2018
5/ Trudeau’s extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa. These tribes become political clienteles to be bought with taxpayers $ and special privileges.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) August 13, 2018
6/ Cultural balkanisation brings distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence, as we are seeing everywhere. It’s time we reverse this trend before the situation gets worse. More diversity will not be our strength, it will destroy what has made us such a great country.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) August 13, 2018
"If you vote, you will have a say in how your children's schools are run," the video says in simplified English. "If you vote, you will have a say in the price of bus tickets. If you vote, you will have a say in small business taxes. If you vote, you will have a say in policing in Winnipeg. If you vote, it is a democracy... Be part of your community. Vote."
The overall voter turnout in the last municipal election was close to 50 per cent and much less for newcomers and visible minorities, said Ahmed.
"Right now, visible minorities do not feel represented at the municipal level, so that is why we need to engage the newcomer community in the civic process -- so that we have councillors and school trustees who look like the kids who attend the school, who look like the people who take the bus in our city so that we have our city representing the population that lives in the city," said Ahmed.
Surafel Kuchem, who came to Canada as a teen from Ethiopia in 2005, will be voting in his first municipal election this fall. He said it took him more than a decade to become a citizen and be eligible to vote.
"I was unable to become a citizen as fast as I wanted to but that doesn't make me any less of a Canadian," said Kuchem. For newcomers working to make ends meet, coming up with the money and time to become a Canadian citizen may be beyond their means, he said. Citizenship application fees are now $630 for adults and $100 for each child under 18. Those between the ages of 18 and 54 have to prove they meet the Canadian Language Benchmarks Level 4 or higher in speaking and listening.
Kuchem said he was busy working as a cleaner to survive and put himself through university while volunteering at an after-school program.
"I was paying taxes and working - from a cleaning job to a school teacher now. I'm also coaching in the community. If I am doing that and putting a lot of effort into the city, why not give me and the community I'm from a voice to elect people who can represent and make changes in the system that serves our community?"
Mayoral ForumClick to Expand
The Got Citizenship? Go Vote! campaign's Mayoral Forum on Immigrant/Refugee/Newcomer Issues is Sept. 22 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Hugh John MacDonald School gym, 567 Bannatyne Ave. All mayoral, city council and school trustee candidates are invited.
Got Citizenship? Go Vote! is organized by members of Immigration Partnership Winnipeg's "immigration civic engagement sector table committee", Newcomer Working Group and Winnipeg’s enthnocultural community leaders.
After leaving a dictatorship in Syria and becoming a Canadian citizen, Winnipeg's Nour Ali is looking forward to having a say in how his city is run.
"This is the first time I will be voting in my life," said Ali, who came to Canada more than six years ago. He wonders why citizenship is required in order to vote at the municipal level.
"I bought my house and pay my taxes so why am I not allowed to vote before I get citizenship?"
The arrival of so many newcomers to Winnipeg has helped the city grow and prosper, and they should have a say in who runs it, said Ali.
City councils in Vancouver and Toronto have passed motions recently asking their provincial governments to make the necessary changes to allow permanent residents to vote at the civic level, said Ahmed with Winnipeg's Got Citizenship? Go Vote! campaign. He's hoping Winnipeg's city council will do likewise.
"We know that the contribution of newcomers to this city matters to all of us, whether you are first generation or third generation or an indigenous person who has lived here forever," Ahmed said.
A link to the campaign can be found here.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.