While St. John’s is very much a vibrant community, it is not an easy one in which to integrate for new arrivals. Part of this has to do with the city’s lack of neighbourhood-level capacity. In particular, there are very few active neighbourhood associations, which are often the gateway into getting engaged with civic affairs. There is a robust set of programs focused on integrating immigrants and refugees into the community, but there is little equivalent focused effort for intra-Canadian migrants arriving in the city for their education, for a job, or in search of the city’s quality of life. There is a deeply ingrained narrative in Newfoundland about it being a place that people look to leave, and the civic culture in the city still hasn’t entirely caught up to the idea that people – particularly younger ones – might move there by choice. These new arrivals, whether born in the city or entirely new to it, are often the driving force behind new community initiatives, but this has largely been a matter of luck – there is little in the way of coordinated effort to engage them. The result of all this has been a distinct lack of diversity within the city’s political and civic conversation – it is very rare, for example, to see a candidate for municipal office who grew up outside the city.
Within that context, this project has several overlapping goals:
- To diversify the range of people engaged with municipal affairs
- To open a broader public conversation in the city around attraction and retention
- To broaden the understanding of what it means to be engaged in municipal affairs beyond electoral politics by exposing people to different organizations and opportunities for community action
- To help lay the groundwork for a more developed infrastructure of neighbourhood organizations that can serve as conduits into civic affairs for residents in the future
- To gather data on the views and experiences of people new to St. John’s.
A successful project would mean a broader range of voices and experiences contributing to the many important conversations happening in the city right now around density, transportation, and how to build a city that can survive the economic and demographic challenges of the future.
This project will involve two major elements:
- A series of neighbourhood sessions co-hosted by Happy City our project partners through Fulbright Canada over the course of Winter and Spring 2019, focused on bringing neighbours together and introducing them to the basics of neighbourhood organizing and municipal affairs.
- Producing an online toolkit that new arrivals to the city can use to find ways to contribute to civic life and municipal affairs (including relevant volunteer opportunities, channels for engaging with political officials and in the political decision-making process, training and personal/professional development opportunities, etc.).
To gain some insight into the current status of newcomers in St John’s, we hope you’ll fill out the survey at the bottom of this post. Your responses will help us with developing content for our neighbourhood forums. We hope that you’ll attend the forum in your neighbourhood, the dates and times of which will be announced soon.