Time for us to step up

By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher

Canada’s population is growing at a phenomenal rate. But, this growth isn’t coming from traditional sources.

A report released this week presents a picture of change such as this country has not seen before although it should have been expected.

The most dramatic changes highlighted in the Statistics Canada report, Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population, which was released on Tuesday, shows major increases in the visible minority communities across the country and, especially, in the major cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

The report indicates that by 2031 – just 21 years away – visible minorities will make up almost a third of Canada’s population and a whopping 63 per cent of the population in Toronto. That is some minority!

The fastest growing visible minority community is the South Asian community (Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans etc.). This community is expected to triple in size by 2031 to about one-quarter of the population – more than two million people.

The Chinese and Black communities are also expected to grow, although not at the same rate. The Chinese community is expected to double to just over one million and the Black community to about three-quarters of a million.

Actually, we have always been concerned about StatsCan numbers for the Black community. We know for a fact that there are Black people who do not self identify, especially on surveys, as Black. In fact, it is not unusual when surveys are being done to have readers call us up to ask what they should do or to express concern over what the surveys might be used for. We have actually had people express the concern that some government in the future could use information from the surveys to deport Black people from Canada. Some have even referred, no kidding, to how Japanese Canadians were rounded up and detained during wartime.

So, we will always view the numbers quoted for the Black community as being somewhat understated. But, that is our fault. As we have said time and again, governments need to know numbers for the various and diverse communities in order to properly plan the use of their resources. If our community’s numbers are small, obviously the resources earmarked for our community will be small while the communities which ensure that they are counted are properly funded. (Make sure when the census is being done next time to proudly state that you are Black!)

Greater numbers could mean a greater – and stronger – economic base in our community which could help provide jobs. Larger numbers will also provide us with a stronger political voice. It is no secret that politics is all about numbers. Those with the stronger numbers are listened to and respected more than those with weaker numbers (e.g. smaller communities), especially if those strong numbers are backed up with a strong, assertive and confident voice.

Our challenge will be to learn to work more effectively and efficiently with, and within, the system for and on behalf of our community. There are lots of us working very well and very successfully in this society but mostly for ourselves. We need to remember that, for the most part, without our community and those who have worked hard to break down barriers before we came along, we would not be where we are today. It’s time to begin looking beyond ourselves.

Power is never given up and change is never easy. As our communities grow, as our voice becomes more assertive, and as our presence is more recognized there are those who are going to resent it and react negatively.

That’s where the bridge-building and networking we do today will be of immense value.

Other communities, many of them smaller than ours, are already taking advantage of this country’s welcoming environment and reaping the benefits. We need to step up. There is so much that we, as a community, have to offer this country and so much that this country has to offer us.

We don’t have to wait until 2031.

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