Celebrating community and diversity

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by Melissa Francis

What makes a community welcoming and inclusive? This was a question posed at a St. Lawrence – Rideau Immigration Partnership community feedback event hosted in the Fall of 2016. An engaged group of immigrants, local residents, service providers, students, local elected officials, and business owners attended the event to discuss the current and future state of welcoming and inclusive communities in Leeds Grenville. A common theme emerged from these discussions – that to enhance the sense of belonging for residents of all backgrounds, local communities should be doing more to recognize and celebrate the diversity of individuals living in Leeds Grenville.

This suggestion spurred the St. Lawrence – Rideau Immigration Partnership to launch the community-driven campaign ‘We Are Neighbours’.

As part of this Campaign that was launched on July 5, Immigration Partnership staff will be interviewing individuals from each of the 13 Leeds Grenville municipalities. Longtime residents, new and established immigrants, business owners, and students will contribute their stories and opinions to this initiative. The interviews will provide participants with the opportunity to share their stories and experiences of living in Leeds Grenville, in addition to providing friendly advice to people new to the area.

Participants who arrived in Leeds Grenville from elsewhere in Canada, or elsewhere around the globe, will be encouraged to share their settlement story, or what brought them to their current destination. To date, participants from Kemptville, Merrickville and Brockville have been interviewed. It is hoped that by showcasing stories from different people across Leeds Grenville, residents will find pride and excitement in the diversity of people, experiences, skills and lifestyles that exist locally. Diversity has long been a Canadian strength – culturally, socially, politically and economically. It is also a Leeds Grenville strength.

The Campaign will extend its reach into Leeds Grenville communities in the Fall, when a community engagement display filled with the stories and photos gathered during initial Campaign stages will be hosted at public spaces across the region. The North Grenville Public Library, public libraries within the Township of Rideau Lakes, the Brockville Public Library, and the Brockville & Area YMCA have all agreed to work with the Immigration Partnership to provide a public space for people to view the display and to enjoy different activities that celebrate community and diversity.

The Immigration Partnership welcomes partnerships with other organizations who may be interested in hosting the display for a week or more. The schedule for the community engagement display will be shared soon.

To view the weekly Campaign posts and to learn more about the campaign, people are encouraged to visit www.weareneighbours.weebly.com, or the St. Lawrence – Rideau Immigration Partnership Facebook page www.facebook.com/LGimmigration.

General inquiries regarding the St. Lawrence – Rideau Immigration Partnership can be directed to Melissa Francis, Program Manager – [email protected] or 613.498.2111.

The St. Lawrence – Rideau Immigration Partnership is a coalition of area organizations that works to attract immigrants to Leeds and Grenville and provides services that facilitate their successful settlement. The Immigration Partnership is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

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