City Decides Whether or Not Canadian Citizenship is Necessary to Sit on a Committee

The question of whether or not Canadian citizenship should be required to sit on a committee has been a burning one as of late.

And now, the city has come up with an answer.

This past Wednesday at General Committee, council approved the recommendation to maintain the status quo: Canadian Citizenship is still a requirement to sit on a committee at city hall in Mississauga.

If you haven't followed the topic before, Canadian citizenship has long been a requirement for citizen appointments to a committee at city hall. The individual must also be at least 18-years-old and a resident or business owner in the community.

The topic was brought to the governance committee on March 7. At that meeting, the committee said it wanted to have the requirement removed. However, Ward 7 Councillor Nando Iannicca suggested that more input was needed from the community and deferred the issue. From there, the decision was made to have the topic go back to council for further review after receiving input from the community. Several of the councillors reached out to citizens of their respective wards to come to a decision.

Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito initially wanted to have the Canadian citizen requirement removed, however, she changed her decision after receiving further input from individuals within the community. She also mentioned that within Mississauga, there are only approximately 10 to 12 per cent of residents that are non-Canadian citizens.

"I don't think by requiring the citizenship that we are going to be disenfranchising or cutting off for participation a great number of residents," says Saito. "My citizens have spoken. My residents have spoken very, very clearly that they feel we should be retaining the citizenship requirement for city committees."

Iannicca showcased a significant amount of letters that he received from residents of his ward.

"It's unanimous. For every ratepayer group and citizen group and seniors group that I had in Ward 7, they let me know they fundamentally disagree with a policy where new Canadians who are not yet Canadian citizens would pass judgment on some of the fundamentals of how we run the city," he said.

One of the issues that Iannicca brought up as an example is the Mississauga library board. He questioned whether it would be in the best interest of the community to have non-Canadians decide what types of books should be on the shelves. Another example was having someone decide whether a neighbour should install a pool in their backyard through the committee of adjustment. Iannicca and other councillors said that individuals who are Canadians would have best insight into their communities and the needs of the residents.

Councillors did offer other ways for individuals who are not yet Canadian citizens, but living within the community, to get involved. They provided ideas such as individual ward committees that don't have the requirement, as well as organizations within the community such as not-for-profits or other boards.

Councillor Carolyn Parrish was the only member of council to vote against the idea of keeping the citizenship as requirement to be on council. Parrish mentioned that she had worked with individuals in the past who had not received their citizenship easily and waited up to eight years to receive Canadian status.

"I find it sad that we're joining only two other municipalities in Ontario- Brampton and Kingston- and banning these people from applying to be on our committees," said Parrish.

The Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC) is where the topic was first received at city hall and the members of the committee voted to keep the rule of Canadian citizenship in place. Mayor Bonnie Crombie agreed with DIAC's decision.

"If the committee came out with the ruling...then we have to respect them as an advisory group to council," said Mayor Crombie.

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