Project aims to welcome The World in Burnaby

The 20-foot-high World in Burnaby globe is at public events throughout the summer to help raise awareness about the value of new immigrants and diversity in the city. - Contributed
The 20-foot-high World in Burnaby globe is at public events throughout the summer to help raise awareness about the value of new immigrants and diversity in the city.
— image credit: Contributed

Burnaby is a city filled with new immigrants and refugees and that's a good thing.

That's the message of a year-long campaign dubbed World in Burnaby that aims to make the city a more welcoming place to be for newcomers.

"We want Burnaby to be the most welcoming and inclusive city in Canada because we know the value of diversity," said Jeanne Fike, co-chair of the Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table which has launched the campaign.

"The population has just exploded over the last couple of decades and now more than 50 per cent of the residents are foreign-born and speak a different language other than English," Fike said.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the skills, talents and cultural richness that immigrants bring to the city.

Operating with $500,000 in provincial and federal funding, World in Burnaby will be bringing its 20-foot-high globe to public events in the city until October, including the Symphony in the Park concert at Deer Lake Park on the evening of Sunday, July 14.

People will be encouraged to discuss ways to be more welcoming to newcomers, and even fill out postcards with welcoming messages which will be given out at local English-as-a-second-language classes or by settlement services organizations, said Jody Johnson, the project's coordinator.

The education campaign will highlight the need for immigrants to fill the need for skilled labour and to help address Canada's low birthrate, which was 1.61 children per woman in 2011, according to Statistics Canada. Internationally, Canada is ranked 186th out of 221 countries for birthrate, says the CIA World Factbook.

"We're lower than countries you would never imagine we would be lower than," Johnson said.

The project's initiatives will include helping community leaders understand the issues refugees face, helping businesses understand the contributions newcomers can make to their work forces, and training new immigrants to tell their stories.

As for making Burnaby more welcoming, Johnson said she hopes to help people become more conscious of that person who perhaps has an accent, looks new or even lost. People need to know they have a role to play in helping make the city a more inclusive community.

"One of the things that everyone will say, who's new, is Canadians are really nice and they're really polite, and superficially they're really friendly, but often it doesn't go beyond kind of a hello … What do we do beyond that?"

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