Winnipeg faces significant demographic changes in the years ahead, both in terms of our overall population as well as our cultural diversity. Embracing those changes and building an inclusive community will be essential to ensuring our city has a strong future.
The 2014 Community Trends Report by the City of Winnipeg details these changes:
According to the report, Winnipeg ranks 6th among Canadian cities when it comes to immigration, stating, “The Toronto area receives the largest share of Canada’s immigrants. In 2013, Toronto saw approximately 81,800 immigrants, followed by Montreal (43,950), Vancouver (29,450), Calgary (17,505), Edmonton (12,717), and then Winnipeg (11,100).”
The Community Trends Report also discusses Winnipeg’s Indigenous population, stating, “The number of Aboriginal people in Winnipeg has been growing. In the City of Winnipeg, Aboriginal people total 72,300 persons, while in the City region (CMA) the number is just above 78,400 persons.” The report also states, “Aboriginal people account for 11% of the population in Winnipeg. Thus Winnipeg has both the highest concentration and the largest number of Aboriginal people out of large Canadian cities.”
The Indigenous population is expected to grow rapidly, as Mia Rabson wrote in the Free Press, “The First Nations population in Manitoba grew more than four times as quickly as the population as a whole. Provincially, the First Nations population grew 22.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011, and the Métis population grew 16.3 per cent. The entire population of Manitoba grew by 5.2 per cent in that time frame.”
This growth and diversity is a great thing, as Winnipeg can be a positive example to Canada, and the world when it comes to embracing diversity, respecting our Indigenous heritage, and building a diverse and equitable community. However, as we have seen, there is more work to be done to get there. Just recently, a Winnipeg day care was targeted with racist pamphlets. Additionally, the well-known Maclean’s article on racism that created an intense amount of discussion demonstrates that Winnipeg faces some challenges on the road to achieving our full potential.
While addressing prejudice and promoting inclusivity is important first and foremost because it is the right thing to do, it is also going to be essential to the economic prospects of our city.
According to a Conference Board of Canada report for the City of Winnipeg, “From 2012 to 2035, population growth is expected to average 1.2 per cent per year, while real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is forecast to average 2.3 per cent per year.”
“Migration has become an increasingly important factor for population growth, and Winnipeg’s ability to attract new migrants will continue to be an important determinant of its future economic potential,” the report continues.
Indeed, it is clear that Winnipeg’s future economic prospects will depend on new Canadians.
“Winnipeg is expected to attract an average of more than 9,500 net international migrants each year from 2012 to 2035. Although the population will age as baby boomers retire, increased levels of immigration will help support growth in Winnipeg’s labour force.”
With these facts in mind - and while remaining aware of the struggles our city faces - there is reason to be optimistic about the future of Winnipeg. We have many leaders who are stepping up and taking action to create a better view of our city.
In that regard, Mayor Brian Bowman announced the creation of a Mayor’s Indigenous Advisory Circle led by Wab Kinew, Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg.
This, as well as the One Winnipeg initiative, are important steps to embracing openness and inclusion in our city. As leaders continue to step up, we have every reason to believe that the future of Winnipeg will be bright and hopeful.
Spencer Fernando is Comments Editor for The Uniter.