Strength in Diversity – Jane Philpott

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FROM THE OFFICE OF Hon. JANE PHILPOTT

Strength in Diversity

 

As 2017 comes to a close, I want to reflect on one of the themes from Canada 150 – the theme of diversity.  Many residents of Stouffville contributed to the Latcham Gallery’s Leaf Project, a community art project that was created in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.  The individual leaves were submitted from people of all walks of life. Each one is unique.  Put together, they form a spectacular single work of art. This project showcases just how diverse we are as residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville, and how beautiful we are as a collective.

In the data released from the 2016 census we see a wonderful snapshot of Whitchurch-Stouffville.   Did you know that 59 different languages are spoken in homes across our town or that 32.5% of our town’s population were born in another country?  We have representation from all over the world – the Americas (Jamaica & US), Europe (UK & Italy), Africa (Egypt), and Asia (China, Sri Lanka, India & Philippines).  Countries in brackets indicate the highest percentages from those regions.

As our community becomes more diverse, we can learn so much from each other, about other cultures and backgrounds. A growing and diverse community provides wonderful opportunities. Even as we celebrate our diversity, it’s important to talk about how we make everyone feel included and welcome. In October, while meeting with members of the Markham-Stouffville Youth Council, we had a conversation about their experiences with discrimination. These young people said that there were some signs of discrimination in our community.  Examples they cited included racial slurs, patterns of economic discrimination, and inequitable customer service based on individuals’ ability to speak English.

We live in a time when hate crimes based on race and religion are on the rise. Even our community has not been spared. But in August 2017, when anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at three local schools in Markham, the response of the community was heartening. Almost immediately, a Children’s Unity Celebration was organized and people came together to show mutual compassion and solidarity. I am proud to be part of a community that stands up for peace and justice. We should not be afraid of talking about diversity and how our community will remain a welcoming and safe place to live, work and play.

Therefore, in the new year I will be co-hosting a Town Hall with a focus on “What does discrimination look like in Markham-Stouffville, and what can we do about it?” The purpose is to shed light on the experiences of our neighbours, and to share ideas about building a stronger future together. I invite you to attend.  As details become available they will be posted on my website, www.jane.philpott.ca.

In closing, I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season, filled with joy and peace. As we look ahead to 2018, I wish you a very happy new year, and look forward to seeing you soon. As always, if you wish to reach my office, you can call 905-640-1125 or email jane.philpott@parl.gc.ca.

 

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