Corp Comm Connects

'Racism is fuelled by bad stories': Centre for newcomers in Newmarket, Aurora creates better stories of inclusivity

'We are always better together,' says top official, who evokes 'Cheers' sitcom theme song
July 4, 2022

In 1981, when Alfred Lam arrived in Canada as a boy from Hong Kong, he watched TV to learn English.

He became glued to the sitcom "Cheers," which centred around a group of regulars at a Boston bar.

The theme song, which speaks of having a place where everybody knows your name, they’re always glad you came and our troubles are all the same, tugged at his heartstrings.

Its sentiment of friendship and connection, despite different circumstances, is something which Lam, the executive director of the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS), says is core to the organization’s half-century objective of supporting newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area with settlement and integration services.

On June 28, CICS held the grand opening for its eighth and newest location, in Newmarket at 130 Mulock Dr.

“We all have a personal stake in the communities that we try to build and live in together. And that’s why, as we begin this new work in Newmarket, our dream is for it to become a space and a place where everyone can come together and create the kind of communities that we would like for our children and our parents and families we are trying to raise,” he said.

“We are always better together.”

CICS centres are places that help dismantle notions that feed racism, Lam said.

“Racism, at its core, is not an ideology that we try to combat with a better argument. Racism is fed and fuelled, at its core, by bad stories. Narratives that are bad and untrue,” he said.

“And the way we (CICS) have learned doing this work for 50 years in the communities we serve, what we have learned is the way you combat a bad story is not by presenting a better argument or better philosophy. The way you combat a bad story is to tell a better story, for people to experience a better and truer story.”

Primarily funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the centre serves a growing number of newcomers settling in Newmarket and Aurora area with programs for women, youth and seniors from diverse backgrounds as they integrate into Canada.

“Our goal is to be considered one of the most inclusive communities in Canada,” Mayor John Taylor said.

“Diversity is powerful but it is not powerful without inclusivity.”

He pointed out Newmarket has welcomed the Pride parade, became one of the first municipalities in Ontario with a permanent Indigenous land acknowledgement plaque at the town hall and provided space for the headquarters for the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association.

York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said the department supports inclusivity “because we believe, as police service, that is really the work that has to get done in our profession right now.”

Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen said the federal government is contributing $8.2 million to CICS as it empowers newcomers by providing them with opportunities to participate in and contribute to all spheres of Canadian society.

For more information, call 905-895-3789 and follow the centre on Facebook at and Instagram at @cicsnewmarket.