Mississauga Mayor Emphasizes City's Diversity in Wake of Trump Travel Ban

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Mississauga is one of the most diverse cities in Ontario and that diversity is, in so many ways, an incredible blessing.

While visible minorities have no doubt experienced racism in the city, the multicultural landscape of Mississauga makes residents -- younger ones in particular -- less fearful of some great foreign "unknown." We've grown up with diversity and the idea of disparate but coexisting cultures isn't new -- the GTA is, in many ways, defined by that very coexistence.

Cities like Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga have incredible layers and pockets that celebrate and represent the global fabric of the spaces we call home. We have Chinatowns and Little India's and Italy's. We have Koreatowns and Middle Eastern garment stores and Polish and Ukrainian community centers.

It's no secret that it's been a truly difficult weekend for Muslims in the west. On Friday, Jan. 27, newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would be imposing a 90-day travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority nations and on Sunday, Jan. 29, a gunman killed six people and wounded 19 others in a horrific attack on a Quebec city mosque.

While it's been a harrowing weekend for many, Mississauga officials have been careful to stand for diversity and inclusion.

After the travel ban was announced, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie released a statement and reminded residents that the city is everyone's home and that services and resources are available for newcomers.

"With so much uncertainty happening in recent days and increased fears of discrimination, racism and persecution, I want to remind the public that Mississauga welcomes everyone - no matter a person's culture or faith, Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a release. “Mississauga is home to people from every corner of the globe and all points in between. We are blessed to be the destination of choice for so many newcomers looking to make Canada their home."

The release pointed out that Mississauga offers programs, services and resources that are appropriate for people who have recently arrived or have been living in the city for a number of years. It mentioned that people new (or not so new) to the city can find help and information at the library and access resources provided by the Region of Peel and United Way.

Crombie also reached out to the broader community, asking everyone to pitch ideas and get involved in making newcomers feel more at home and emphasizing the range of culturally diverse events offered at Celebration Square.

"If residents or community groups have an idea on ways to further reach newcomers and deliver new and innovative city programs, I encourage them to contact my office, their councillor or consider making a presentation to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC)," added Mayor Crombie, who brought forward DIAC shortly after becoming mayor. "This year we mark Canada 150 and the founding of our nation. These year-long celebrations are an opportunity to remember the enduring contributions made by newcomers from around the world, and who helped build Canada into the dynamic, respected and peaceful place we all call home."

Crombie's emphasis on diversity is fitting because Mississauga—Canada's sixth largest city—is indeed one of its most diverse.

Overall, the city is an example of multi-culturalism working -- and working well.

Mississauga, like many diverse GTA cities, functions well because of its openness, its tolerance and its lack of fear. While it makes sense for Crombie to promote inclusion, she’s not the only one speaking out.

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have all emphasized the importance of inclusion. While some might argue that it's brash to be contrarian when Canadian officials—especially the Prime Minister—must work with the new American government, it's crucially important to make minorities (especially Muslims following the Quebec tragedy) feel welcome and protected—and not just in the wake of an attack, but at all times.

It's true that multiculturalism has worked incredibly well for Canada and Toronto and the GTA in particular. When Muslims move to Mississauga, they aren't confined to ghettos, treated with distrust by residents and authority figures and isolated by abrasive and discontented stares.

Discrimination can and does happen -- but not as frequently as it might in a more homogenized community. Our city's treatment of newcomers neutralizes the feelings of hopelessness and alienation that might drive a depressed or frustrated person into the embrace of extremism.

After all, extremist organizations like ISIS/ISIL work because they don't just instill terror in recruits or promise a spectacular afterlife (although they do both of those things) -- they extend a hand first. They promise everything from prosperity to recognition to a sense of belonging. They ask people to die or kill for a cause that unites them with a greater, broader community. Sure, they appeal to violent people, but they also appeal to the displaced and disaffected. The lonely. The angry. The ignorant.

Our values make us special. They're shared by so many, including the Muslims who live, work and play in Mississauga. They're not only positive, they're protective -- Canada has been spared so much of the tension plaguing Europe because it's adopted and enacted a fair, careful and intelligent immigration process.

It's encouraging to see local leaders standing by inclusivity following this week's troubling (and now, tragic) events.

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