If Canada’s strength lies in its diversity, then Surrey, B.C. might just be the strongest city in the country. With 40 per cent of its population born in foreign countries, it’s a multicultural mixing pot—and that’s a fact that raises some unique opportunities and challenges. In the year of Canada 150, when inclusion and diversity are high on the agenda, one group is facing those issues head-on.
“[Surrey’s diversity] brings innovation and creativity, which is wonderful,” said Rachel Nelson, associate director of partnerships and programs at Simon Fraser University. “But, at the same time, it brings challenges like adapting to living in such a diverse city, the resources people can access here, and having enough support for the newcomer population.”
In an effort to open up a dialogue around these and other issues, Simon Fraser University partnered with the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership, the City of Surrey, SFU Philosophers’ Café, and the SFU Surrey TD Community Engagement Centre to produce Inclusive City Cafes, a safe and welcoming community discussion space that is held each month for an hour and half.
Inclusive City Cafes began in the fall of 2015 and have covered everything from Indigenous rights to global citizenship to the U.S. travel ban. The most recent Café, which was widely attended, examined racism on public transit.
“We had someone from [Translink] transit there and a Muslim woman who has had [negative commuting] experiences,” said Nelson. “She felt her concerns weren’t listened to when she contacted transit police… so she was grateful to have a platform where people could hear her concerns and potentially do something about it.”
The next Inclusive City Café takes place on April 20th, just a week and a half before SFU hosts C2UExpo 2017, a conference examining community-campus partnerships that will kick off with a Canada 150 reception hosted by the Alliance.