In the next 25 years, if things go as planned, Canada will accept some 7.5 million immigrants and will receive nearly 1.5 million refugees. But, how many of us think things will go as planned in the next 25 years?
Today, there are 65 million displaced people in the world, according to the United Nations. They are nearly twice the population of Canada and this is the greatest number of displaced people on record. Of these displaced people, 22 million are refugees and 10 million are stateless. However, this does not explain the whole problem. It is estimated that the effects of global warming will significantly increase the number of climate refugees and accelerate migration.
What will the world ask of Canada under these conditions? How might we get ready as a country? How might our cities and communities prepare?
Some cities may build virtual walls and fight against immigration. But, alternatively, visionary cities will elect leaders that will find ways to welcome the stranger. They will create conditions of social inclusion through open government, dialogue and deepening community. Visionary cities will also understand that accepting the stranger involves focusing on the well-being of all citizens. Creating conditions that are good for residents which in turn will make their community welcoming to the stranger. I am observing two trends embraced by Canadian cities and visionary communities, and I have made advancing these trends my life's work - eradicating poverty and deepening community.
The first trend - cities and communities, of all sizes uniting to tackle poverty by developing a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. Mayor Don Iveson and Edmonton City Council, for example, mobilized their city to develop End Poverty Edmonton. They gathered leaders from all sectors including Indigenous leaders and people with lived experience of poverty. They built a vision, stayed committed to the vision, and launched a common agenda for change.
The second trend - communities are working to tackle social isolation, loneliness, and in turn the disengagement of citizens. More than 37 cities in Canada have developed or are developing comprehensive neighbourhood strategies. The City of Kitchener, for example, has developed a strategy best described in their hashtag "love my hood," which was developed by reaching out to neighbours to gather ideas and then mobilize a common agenda for change.
In the next 25 years, migration will become a new reality and the idea of borders will be challenged. We do not have too much time to work collaboratively and proactively to significantly reduce poverty and deepen community. Our communities are hungry for change, let’s teach them how to create the conditions for inclusion.
This is a summary of a larger article written as a presentation at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities National Conference.