Intercultural Coalition holds successful “Welcoming Newcomers to Chatham-Kent”

Intercultural Coalition holds successful “Welcoming Newcomers to Chatham-Kent”

The Chatham-Kent Intercultural Coalition held a highly successful “Welcoming Newcomers to Chatham-Kent” event last Friday at the Portuguese Canadian Club in Chatham. The event attracted a large attendance of people interested in helping Chatham-Kent attract more Canadian newcomers and making them feel more welcome when they arrive.

One of the organizers of the event, Cangram International’s Maureen Geddes, painted a stark picture early in her address. She used Statistics Canada Census Data to show that Chatham-Kent is losing population, shrinking 1.8% in the period 1996-2001. “This is a message that the whole community needs to hear,” Geddes said. “We are shrinking and it’s absolutely essential that we stop this trend and share in the bounty of immigration.”

Geddes said the problem of population shrinkage by the native population is a common one in the developed world. “We are not replacing our population through the birth rate,” she said. “The only proven way to increase population is through immigration. If we choose to grow, we need immigration.”

Geddes said that Chatham-Kent is currently missing huge opportunities, both culturally and economically. “Our communities are facing school closures and higher taxes because of this trend,” she said. “We have the capacity and infrastructure to support so many more people.”

Geddes explained that the seeds were planted for the Intercultural Coalition with Sept. 11. “We knew that we needed to proactively build peace and prosperity,” she said. “We needed to educate, facilitate, support, celebrate, nurture, promote and embrace diversity.”

Part of the intercultural event was a re-dedication of the Global Peace and Prosperity Mural in downtown Chatham. The mural contains the flags of over 50 countries, and it is hoped that at some point in the future, it will contain the flags of all countries of origin for Chatham-Kent residents.

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Author: John Gardiner

Originally Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2004