Executive Director Susan Morrissey’s Presentation to Edmonton City Council on the State of Immigration and Settlement’s Annual Report

September 3, 2021

On August 25, 2021, our Executive Director Susan Morrissey had the opportunity to present to Edmonton City Council’s Community and Public Services Committee to speak about the State of Immigration and Settlement’s 2021 Annual Report, which is titled Belonging: Stories of the Dignity and Resilience of Immigrants.

Susan spoke about the importance of rigorous data collection in order to inform better decision-making.

You can watch her presentation on City Council’s YouTube channel. Her remarks begin at the 40-minute mark.

The written text of her speech can also be read below.

“Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on the State of Immigration and Settlement report. 

I am honoured to be a member of the Advisory Committee working on this project which started in 2019.

I am also the Executive Director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council which is a social research and analysis organization with over 80 years of deep roots in Edmonton.

EPSC’s role is to encourage the adoption of equitable social policy, support the work of other organizations striving to improve people’s lives in our community and educate the public about social issues that impact us all.

I have decided to deviate from discussing data as it relates to the many systemic issues that create barriers to newcomers in our community. The report does a great job in using stories of how some individuals and families are not being afforded the same opportunities for a good life.

On a personal level, my grandparents immigrated to Canada in the early 1890s from their homeland of the Ukraine. With the promise of a better life, through hard work they set out to build their home, literally, work their farmland, and eventually raise their nine children. 

Times were very tough, and they built their home from scratch with neighbours helping neighbours.

Fast forward to the present. The newcomers we see coming to our community often out of choice, but not always are coming for the same reasons – the aspiration of a better life for themselves and their families. Our report describes the roadblocks and obstacles that stand in their way of being fully valued, actively contributing members of our community: of feeling a sense of belonging. 

Collecting and using accurately representative race-based data will lead us to better decision making and effective priorities and policies. We see a role for the City of Edmonton to champion and support the collection and sharing of both quantitative and qualitative local data in partnership with the immigrant community.

I understand that the City has announced the end to our local census, last one taking place in 2019. I find this very troubling news because using national census data does not allow for a real-time snapshot of our local community, of our growing newcomer community.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council has made it a priority to look at new approaches to address the gap of understanding when it comes to data especially as it relates to newcomers. Through recent blog posts, our quarterly newsletter that focused an entire edition to Race and Equity, and a special report entitled Confronting Racism with Data: Why Canada Needs Disaggregated Race-Based Data, we are working to reinforce the message that accurate race-based data needs to be collected to make informed policy.

To quote a paragraph from our report:

‘History has shown that race-based data can be used to uphold racist systems and discriminatory practices; but data can also help to dismantle them. Currently, race-based data is collected in only a few key systems, and data collection strategies are woefully inadequate for current needs (in areas such as health, justice, and education). The limited data that is available does not provide adequate evidence to support targeted policy change and intervention. Race-based data is crucial to develop effective anti-racism frameworks, and to understand the diverse, intersectional, needs of racialized communities in Canada.’

I commend the City of Edmonton for having the foresight to direct City Administration to provide an annual report on Settlements and Immigration. I respectfully encourage the committee to receive this report and presentation as the starting point to set in motion the policies, procedures, and practices to “open doors and create possibilities for people… to help them to realize their potential.”

I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to find ways to work with the immigrant community so that everyone thrives.

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