The Case against the Status Quo
What instruments we have agree: we have changed, we are changing. Canada continues to undergo a vast demographic transformation driven by immigration. The country from which originated the phrase “global village” is becoming just that: a culturally-diverse and globally-connected nation. In fact, Statistics Canada now predicts that 1 in 4 Canadians will be foreign born by the year 2031. In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, so-called “visible minorities” will be by then the overwhelming majority. With this change will come both opportunities and challenges. This is especially true for the Kingston community, as we try to thrive as a small city in a big, diverse world.
Statisticians and demographers have already set out a path for us: that same StatsCan study predicts, all factors staying constant, both a significant change within Kingston and a growing diversity gap between Kingston and larger cities around Canada. The report predicts a small change in the number of foreign-born residents in the Kingston area (from 12% in 2006 to 14% in 2031), but a relatively large increase of visible minorities (from 6% in 2006 to 11% in 2031). While the overall number of immigrants will change very little, the ethnic make-up of our immigrants will change dramatically, as our current European immigrants that arrived a generation or two ago are replaced by the next generation from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. However, that visible change in Kingston pales in comparison to the transformation of our bigger cities – thus the gap. The differences in demographic make-up, and all that entails, between Kingston and cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or even Waterloo and Windsor, will only increase – if the study holds true.
That “if” depends on us – and on the importance we place on attracting newcomers to join our community. We might just sit back and follow that path set out for us; after all, Kingston will always be able to get by on its public institutions and historic charm, right? Our other option is to start now so as to make sure that Kingston is a part of this cultural shift – as a prosperous, vibrant, and diverse city….