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Vaughan, the city that speaks 105 languages, adopts York Region’s Inclusion Charter

Vaughan was ‘first Canadian municipality to sign the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity’
Jan. 29, 2020
Dina Al-Shibeeb

It might sound like the United Nations (UN) ratifying a new treaty, but on Jan. 28 the City of Vaughan adopted York Region’s Inclusion Charter.

The Inclusion Charter is a community initiative that brings together local municipalities, police services, hospitals, school boards, conservation authorities and agencies with a common commitment to create an inclusive environment with equality for all who work, live and play here.

As of December 2018, 15 out of the 20 Municipal Diversity and Inclusion Group organizations have endorsed the Inclusion Charter. The York Region Council had endorsed the Charter in June 2018.

After the official adoption of the charter, which was approved in June last year, Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua described how Vaughan’s residents “come from around the world.”

“In fact, nearly half of our population was born abroad, and 105 different languages are spoken within our borders,” Bevilacqua said. “Vaughan is a vibrant and multicultural city with a deep respect and admiration for the many cultures, creeds and faiths that thrive here.”

He went even further defining what inclusion is.

“Inclusion is defined as the idea that everyone -- of every ability -- should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences.”

He stated what to expect following the adoption of the charter.

“To ensure the safety and well-being of all citizens, the city is committed to supporting and promoting community events, arts, culture, heritage, sports and fire prevention awareness.”

Each organization has a customized and unique Inclusion Charter, which previously galvanized UN attention.

On the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, for example, one might read something close to home when its headline reads, “How a regional municipality in Ontario is setting an example on social inclusion.”

On the page, Lisa Gonsalves -- York Region's director, strategies and partnerships branch -- was interviewed.

“It’s not just about words on paper, but rather a commitment to take action,” she said about the charter.

“We had discussions and engagement sessions with the community to get their input,” Gonsalves explained. Those consultations involved more than 1,800 individuals and organizations.

The charter identifies a common commitment to be more welcoming and inclusive, and is a guideline to what each organization will do bring it to life.

One of these successful initiatives is the Places of Worship Tour developed by York Regional Police. “New recruits go on this tour as part of their onboarding and orientation program, and now many public servants also have the opportunity to participate in it. During the tour, we visit several different places of worship, meet the leaders of those faith communities and learn about their beliefs. It’s an opportunity for us to engage with the faith community and understand each other better.”


In March last year, Vaughan became the “first Canadian municipality to sign the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity,” said Bevilacqua, dubbing it a “public commitment to promote the values of diversity, equality and inclusion.”

Additionally, Vaughan has added months to celebrate different heritages.

“Our Heritage Month Celebrations, such as Black History Month, Jewish Heritage Month, National Indigenous History Month and Italian Heritage Month, are recognized annually to acknowledge and appreciate the many social, cultural and economic contributions of our diverse and thriving community.”

For the mayor, the city’s vision for 2020 is “clear.”

“We will continue moving our city forward without leaving anyone behind. To ensure we achieve this, council will be appointing a Diversity and Citizen Engagement Task Force this year,” he said.

“Today, we are reaffirming our dedication to this important and meaningful cause. Together, we are creating a bright and promising future for everyone.”