Do You Need to be a Canadian Citizen to Serve on a Mississauga Committee?

Sometimes, you have to be a Canadian citizen to enjoy certain privileges.

But is that always right?

The City of Mississauga isn’t so sure.

The city is currently reviewing the eligibility requirements that are currently in place for individuals who want to be part of a committee at city hall. As of now, individuals who want to be on a committee must be Canadian citizens.

The policy is under review, as city council says it’s looking for more progressive ways to improve Mississauga, while also thinking about the upcoming municipal elections.

Now, the city is asking for the public’s input on the issue.

The topic was discussed at a recent governance committee meeting. However, it is a topic that has been under review for sometime. The policy was brought to the attention of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DIAC) back in 2016 and since then, DIAC has reviewed and benchmarked Mississauga’s policies against 12 surrounding cities.

Currently, Canadian citizenship is a requirement for citizen appointments to a committee in Mississauga. As well, the individual must be a Mississauga resident and/or business owner and must be a minimum of 18 years old.

Since the review process, DIAC has recommended maintaining the current Canadian citizen eligibility requirement, adding that nothing should be changed at this point in time.

Councillor Ron Starr, who is on the Governance Committee and is vice-chair of DIAC, said that the discussion around the issue was simple—that the committee feels it is reasonable to require that applicants be Canadian citizens.

Starr said that the requirement has been one of the eligibility requirements for many city councils for a significant number of years and that there has never been a need to change that policy.

We really haven’t heard from a lot of people, in fact I don’t know if any [people] that weren’t citizens that wanted to be on [a committee],” says Starr. “It’s not like there’s a lineup of people wanting to do that.”

For other councillors, the policy feels out of date.

Councillors Carolyn Parrish and Pat Saito compared Mississauga’s policy to the City of Kingston’s.

To be clear, Kingston does have a Canadian citizenship requirement, but also has options that allow permanent residents to serve the city. A permanent resident is defined as a person who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada and has resided within the city for at least one year.

I think it’s a fundamental right,” argued Parrish. “If you move to Canada and you are a landed immigrant and you’re working and living in the community, you should get to sit on one of our committees.”

There was discussion on the difficult and time-consuming process one has to endure to go from permanent resident to Canadian citizen. Parrish said that if an individual is member of the community who is working and paying taxes, that individual should also be given the opportunity to serve on a council.

There was also mention that the City of Toronto only has the requirement of being 18 years of age, and that having any more requirements than that is not progressive.

We felt anyone who is living in the City of Mississauga, whether they are Canadian citizens or not, should be able to participate in municipal government committees,” said Saito, chair of the city’s governance committee.

The discussion will resume on March 21 at a general committee meeting.

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