Mon, Sep 10, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Canadian cities boast minorities as majority

In cities such as Markham and Brampton, the combined number of people in cultural minorities exceeds those with French or English roots

By Sadiya Ansari  /  The Guardian, MARKHAM, Ontario

At the end of 2016, seven of the 10 neighborhoods with the most rapid increase in property values in the Toronto area were in Markham. Some properties saw their value jump as much as 90 percent in just three years.

As in Vancouver, conversations about the Markham property boom sometimes have racially tinged accusations about foreign ownership driving up prices.

Local media reported that one developer said: “There is no way a Caucasian would pay [C]$2.1 [million] for a bungalow.”

“In general, people know who you are talking about — it must be the Chinese,” Li told a recent council meeting. “I don’t want that kind of impression.”

Brampton is another majority-minority suburb, west of Toronto. The city’s population — now more than 500,000 — exploded in a similar fashion to Markham’s. It is now 73 percent visible minority, with its largest ethnic group Indian, particularly Sikhs from Punjab, earning the city the nicknames “Bramladesh” and “Browntown.”

There are also significant populations from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean.

However, with its rapidly increasing diversity has come another development: not just a decreasing proportion of white residents, but also a shrinking number. According to numbers cited by the Toronto Star, the white population fell from 192,400 in 2001 to 169,230 in 2011 and now hovers at about 151,000.

Rebecca Bromley, 37, says some of her white friends have left for a variety of reasons.

“There’s a lot of tension [because of growth], so when people leave I’m not going to assume it’s white flight — especially if they want to buy a place they want to afford,” she says.

She points to the city’s many growing pains, including traffic, construction and, for Bromley, challenges in her work as a teacher.

Bromley attended the same Catholic high school where she now teaches and says the city’s demographic makeup has changed a lot.

She sees troubling trends, such as African-Caribbean students being streamed into less-academic courses while Indian students face high expectations to excel.

Bromley also sees students trying to bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between schools and their parents, and others who struggle with language themselves.

“You might get a kid who presents like they are struggling with the language, but actually they have a learning disability, or you might have a kid who has no conversational ability, but they can write just fine,” Bromley says.

Bromley feels ill-equipped to help students with such different needs, because they have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, she says, and the English-language-learners program does not help her navigate these individual problems.

Gurpreet Malhotra is familiar with such institutional gaps. He is the chief executive of Indus Community Services, an organization that serves newcomers in Brampton. In his experience, businesses have caught on that integration is a two-way street — whether they are clothing shops hiring staff who speak Punjabi or grocers stocking Indian cooking staples — but government-funded institutions have not.

Political power, he says, does not reflect Brampton’s population.

“We have to dislodge the well-entrenched powers,” Malhotra says of the city council.

On the federal and provincial level, the Punjabi community is well represented in Brampton. The first non-white federal party leader, Jagmeet Singh, has a strong political base in the city, where he held a seat as a provincial politician.

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