Blog Post

Welcoming Spaces Panel Discussion (live meeting recording)

By: Marco Campana
January 30, 2022

Panellists at the 2010 Welcoming and Inclusive Communities and Workplaces (WICWP) Vancouver Forum shared their community approaches for creating welcoming and inclusive spaces.

The video cannot be embedded, but you can watch it on YouTube.

Part of the reason I wanted to share it here is because so much of what is being said, suggested, experienced, and recommended was not new then, and is now new now, but continues to have to be said. It's part of the challenge for the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector to continue to have to repeat the same messages and recommendations to help create welcoming and inclusive communities. And they continue to be ignored.

Read or watch even the opening remarks about how Newcomers should learn about and build relationships with First Nations? This is a conversation that has happened for some time in our sector. Beyond that, the comments about inclusion requiring systemic change, not simply feel good window dressing are important and echo both long-standing comments, as well as what we hear today.

It's worth spending time looking back as we look forward. In many cases, the solutions already exist. Perhaps it's time to listen and implement...

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has not been edited. It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Unknown Speaker 0:06
I am just going to posit a few provocative questions in the context of us sharing in the traditional territories of First Nations. When we say when we talk about public spaces, whose spaces are these four? And And are we talking about this world? And how can newcomers properly acknowledge or learn about the unique relations of First Nations in and also we are all sharing part of their traditional territories, is it kind of just a ceremonial gestured when we invite an elder to open, significant discussion like today, and how does the acknowledgement or acknowledgement of this contribution would foster newcomers sense of belonging which Ben talked about, from the aspect of intercultural relations?

Unknown Speaker 1:01
So, first of all, I'll just provide a little bit background with regards to the city. And I'll do this really quickly because I know time is of the essence, the city of New Westminster is experienced an increase in immigration. And just as an example of how rapid that's occurring between 2001 and 2016, increases, the immigrant population comprise 79.1% of total population growth. So as a city and our immigrant population is now well over a third, this has really challenged the city with regards to how can we can be more inclusive of this population in maximize your contributions. So the city with regards to settlement and integrate integration agencies did apply for community partnership development grant, we develop the charter from that grant. And based on that charter, we developed a project called reach out in US Minister greet, inform and connect in those three components were essential with regards to the projects and each one of them relate to one of those three components. We have a gateway Ambassador project, which really greets individuals as they come to us. And that's the great component. We have a new Congress Guide, which we're developing, which will be specific to New Westminster Netsy inform. And we have an immigrant Mentorship Program, which is a way of connecting immigrants, with service providers, and also with regards to the city and services within the city. And that's the Connect component. And together, these three components and these projects are equipping empowering newcomers to become more engaged and involved in US minister, while at the same time informing informing them that their contributions are both welcome and important. And just from the city's perspective, because I think cities are starting to play a more involved role with regards to this area, around welcoming Inclusive Communities some some initiatives that the city is undertaking, we assisted in the development of the charter in the demonstration project, we're coordinating the welcoming, inclusive, New Westminster Working Group, which is overseeing these projects, are holding meetings to assist agency collaboration, service coordination, recognize that we have to bring all the all the different agencies into the tent to work together. We're informing the development of the newcomers guide and assisting in the training of both ambassadors and mentors. And we're providing meeting spaces and venues. And I shouldn't say this doesn't underplay the importance of the settlement integration agencies because they've been at the table, and they're really driving the process, but we see ourselves as more of a supportive role. And just to conclude that the city is also reviewing its policies, procedures, spaces, programs and services to ensure that they are supportive of a welcoming, inclusive community. And this is a community which truly welcomes includes newcomers. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 3:46
Now to go to the questions. What I want to say is that one of the purposes I guess, in taking the acid mapping approach for a group of women that we were involved in as part of my work in Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House, it was to help the communities to think also in terms of their wealth in terms of people and things and services and the resources that they were already in the community, to going to look for it outside the community, as well as the resources within themselves the skills, the knowledge and experience that they had. The other, I guess, reason behind this was to build from what it was to build from what we have the requires asking different questions around, you know, what we meaning different questions to define in order what is, for example, service provision, or what is child care from their perspective? What is the meaning of that to them, rather than to be drawn from some of the definitions that are already out there? The woman that were involved in this project were from at least six different countries. They were from Bangladesh from China from Iran from Colombia from Chilean from Mexico. And what they did is they practically started from scratch in the sense that they were able to put in their own words what their approach was, what why did they chose the approach, what was the approach wasn't for example, nascent in their own words that this approach was to. The process they chose was based in finding and sharing these services. There were already there the resources that they already had, but also from the humane and sensitive and inclusive perspective, as well as finding services and resources that open opportunities for them as immigrants and services that denied stereotype them as immigrants and in turn, kind of perpetrating the challenges that we face as immigrants and the barriers that we face.

Unknown Speaker 5:46
This project the downtown Peninsula intercultural community gardens project started with a number of community agencies coming together and looking at ways to make the downtown Peninsula a more welcoming and inclusive place. Out of that discussion, and there were many, many agencies, there were three organizations, the YMCA, Gordon Neighborhood House and the West End residents association that came together to work with the intercultural community gardens. So we recognized the inherent appeal of gardening, in that food production is part of every culture, and that the gardens themselves are places that are informal, walkable kinds of spaces where people can come together. However, we also felt from the experience in the community that we've had, that it was important to be intentional about what we wanted to accomplish. In other words, just saying we're going to have gardens was not necessarily going to create the intercultural exchange that we felt we wanted to have happen. So with the with the project, one of the first places that we started, as we said, in terms of selection of the gardeners, we wanted to have at least 50 plots. We said, in order to represent the socio demographic reality of the community, 40% of those should be immigrants. So we we stated that at the onset, then we had to go on into community outreach, we needed to promote this in a way that would get the diversity in the community. I also wanted to speak to something else about the downtown Peninsula, it is a very complex diversity. So there's a real blend of ethno cultural groups, socioeconomically you have very wealthy people. And you also have very poor people. There are many kinds of diversities, as you, as many of you would know, there's a very vibrant LGBTQ community that that's there. So we wanted to engage all of those, all of that diversity. We also recognize that even though people live in that small space together, that they often live in a very siloed way. So so the point of the gardens was to use them as a vehicle to to build community capacity to build social cohesion and, and promote civic engagement. So we decided we wanted to have 40% that were immigrants. in very practical terms, that meant going out and doing outreach in a way we, in all honesty, don't often do in our organizations that meant translating promotional materials, getting those materials into all kinds of places. So for example, getting promotional materials in Farsi in Iranian groceries. So making sure that that people were being reached. And I can mention at this point, I live and work in the downtown Peninsula, I have attended many meetings that that have to do with housing or rezoning or various issues that are very important to the whole community. It is extremely rare to see the whole community represented there. So it really takes that step in terms of outreach of ensuring that the whole community comes in is and is part of these processes. Once we had the, the the recruitment piece done, in order to actually get a plot or be eligible to get a plot, people had to go through some training. So we had a community dialogue that dealt with in with intercultural communication and inclusive communication. We also had a full day of diversity training that dealt with intercultural communication with anti homophobia and anti racism. I should mention we had 50 plots, or we hope to have 50 plots. We had about 100 people come in for training. So there were lots of people that were just interested in the training, which I think is great. I mean, it shows there's some demand for that out there and we could be providing more of that. And the other thing that was so great is we did have some people that sort of grumbling we went along went wild. I have to give up a Saturday for this training, you know, I want to just garden, nobody that went through, with the exception of one person out of that 100 are actually more than 100. Nobody went through that training and left grumbling. They all left saying this was really interesting, this was really worthwhile.

Unknown Speaker 10:17
In my particular belief, I really have a problem with inclusion in the sense that I don't want to be included into something. Because really, what that suggests is I'm fitting into something that exists. And that room is being made for me to fit into something that exists, and it doesn't imply suggest or often allow the parameters of that thing to, to grow and shift. And for me to just to affect it in a meaningful way, or to fully participate, unless I'm conforming to the space I'm invited into,

Unknown Speaker 11:04
and another one would be logistical. So not always expecting you to, to come to what we as adults deem to be a public space are a welcoming place. But more so going to where you are, I think that applies to any section of the population. So you know, instead of saying, that group should come here, it's more of going to them. And then the last one is that we're we're constantly challenged by the barriers that we're living in. So if we're doing an anti racism training or diversity workshop in schools, we're having to fight against curriculum that in itself is oppressive. And it's based on Eurocentric or colonized frameworks already. So to have a short workshops or to have projects that can only do a small amount is sometimes challenging. But just to end off the, the successes, I think, come from when we're able to link our projects together. So not just having a one off pilot thing that ends but being able to build on the work that we've previously done, the relationships that we already have, and to even know it's something new to work with a youth that and spaces that we know are already willing to be engaged.

Unknown Speaker 12:21
But I think someone raised the question earlier, you know, who is the public that we're talking about our or which public or or I can't remember the precise formulation, I just like to say that we are all the public and that that is something that needs to remain at the core of the way that we think about public space. It's not somebody else's space. It's not their space. It's not the other person's space. We're all urban citizens. We are the public and it's our space, collectively.

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