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Newmarket should strive for more inclusivity, engagement: report

Inclusion initiative includes Aurora, East Gwillimbury
June 16, 2021
Joseph Quigley

Newmarket, Aurora and East Gwillimbury must do more to promote inclusion and engage with their communities, according to a new report.

The Engaged Inclusive Communities initiative report, which was presented to council June 14 by an advisory group, provides initial insight into how to inclusively engage to develop municipal programs and policies.

Neighbourhood Network kicked off the project in March 2020 with all three municipalities participating.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor complimented the report and said the work is vitally important.

“It’s really helping us to understand these issues better,” Taylor said. “It’s going to help us fill an opportunity, but more importantly, just build a stronger Newmarket.”

The report highlights the first part of the initiative, which included conversations with municipal departments, councils and community organizations.

“The focus of it is about inclusive engagement,” project facilitator Kim Clark said. “Because if we do that, we're gaining a broader perspective from a broader slice of our community and that can help us to create more meaningful programs."

The report also includes an overview of population trends in the region. Census statistics show 25.8 per cent of Newmarket’s population is a visible minority, compared to 26.9 per cent in Aurora and 10.9 per cent in East Gwillimbury.

The report highlighted six different overarching themes, including:

The report also identified several opportunities, such as developing diverse community leaders, amplifying important stories, and creating spaces for conversations. 

After the advisory group presents to other municipal councils, the next phase of the project will begin. This will include workshops with municipal leaders and engaging further with institutional partners.

“It does open up my eyes,” Councillor Bob Kwapis said. “Definitely, some areas where I personally need to focus on in order to have that inclusivity.”

Taylor said the effort is not just about being more inclusive. He referred to several recent tragic events, such as a London, Ont. Muslim family being killed in what police are calling a hate crime. Council members attended a vigil for the family organized by the Newmarket Islamic Centre June 13.

“We need to, unfortunately, go beyond just inclusivity right now,” Taylor said. “We have to fight and battle against exclusion and racism.'