It appears that a consistent majority of Brandonites has welcomed the city’s new immigrant population with open arms, even as a stubborn minority continues to find fault with our new citizens.
The City of Brandon has released the results of a Probe Research poll, which indicated that nearly two-thirds — or 64 per cent — of city residents felt that the city’s growing immigrant population has had a positive effect on the community.
A further 25 per cent of respondents felt that the new arrivals have had no net effect on Brandon and the remaining 10 per cent took the view that new immigrants have had a negative effect.
While the spin in the city’s press release fell a bit flat — combining 64 per cent positive and 25 per cent neutral does not add up to a “combined 89 per cent positive impact” — we agree that in general, the ongoing support of immigration in this community is a positive thing.
All you have to do is walk into any Brandon grocery store, shopping mall, restaurant or city park and you’ll see many of our new international friends and neighbours. They live, work, shop and play in our community and have given Brandon a new cosmopolitan feel that until very recently, it had been lacking.
And as a result of their presence in the community, Brandonites have the opportunity to enjoy these many cultures during the city’s annual Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival, a now-annual Multicultural Summer Festival, which takes place this weekend, and a variety of restaurants and stores located throughout the community.
The newly built Global Market — the brainchild of the Canadian Mental Health Association — which has just opened to the public on Rosser Avenue will have a decidedly multicultural flare to it with the involvement of the International Women’s Market.
Local businesses, too, have catered to the needs of Brandon’s newest citizens — banks have hired foreign workers who speak more than one language to provide them better access and traditional grocery stores have begun stocking expanded international foods.
Clearly then, about a quarter of Brandonites are living under a rock if they believe that Brandon’s newcomers have had “no net effect” on the community.
Not everything is perfect of course, which feeds into the views of the 10 per cent who view new immigrants in a negative light. It’s not fair to simply label this minority as racist, although that is likely part of the answer.
Sometimes, though, circumstances dictate our prejudices. And for anyone trying to find a place to live in Brandon, the newcomers have brought new hurdles.
In the first of a series of Sun stories on housing in Brandon, which begins in today’s publication, reporter Keith Borkowsky writes that Brandon’s rapid growth has put a strain on many people who are trying find a place to live. Not only have housing prices jumped by more than 50 per cent since 2007, folks on the bottom end of the fiscal scale looking for a place to rent are facing monthly fees, on average, of $683.
And of course, post-secondary students are in competition for rental space, too, as companies like Maple Leaf and Atom Jet bring in workers to fill vacant positions.
At the same time, Brandon’s education system has also been put under strain as the Brandon School Division attempts to find enough class space and English as Another Language teachers to fill a growing need.
But these are growing pains — necessary ones in our opinion. If Brandon is to thrive as a hub for western Manitoba, we will need new ideas, different and more competitive skill sets and the ability to have a global reach.
While it’s a painful process, we will be a better community for it.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 7, 2012