Kim Turner is Senior Research Associate at Ryerson University’s Global Diversity Exchange. She leads the Cities of Migration program and works with researchers, practitioners, and international partners to identify promising practices and policy innovations that drive immigrant integration, inclusion, and urban prosperity. We caught up with her to learn more about the latest Cities of Migration projects.
What’s the Cities of Migration program all about?
Cities of Migration is an international initiative that showcases promising practices in immigrant integration from global cities and connects local actors for city-to-city learning. We also document the impact of migration on cities. We are interested in the diversity that is a product of migration and how it shapes and influences urban prosperity, how we live together, and the ways in which it drives new ideas across the urban landscape–from how we work or experience public space to the ordinary rituals of everyday life.
What makes the work of Cities of Migration so important nowadays?
Human mobility is the signature of the urban era we live in, which makes understanding the impact of migration so important. Immigration policy is largely the business of national governments, but the lived experience of settlement and integration is local. We are looking for better solutions, new ways to solve old problems, and new stakeholders to help re-frame some of the challenges of inclusive city-building. For example, we know a great deal about how immigrants contribute to and benefit our society. But we are also learning that it’s not all about economics. To create open, inclusive cities, we need to better understand what drives social innovation.
We also need more tangible evidence about the long-term cost of exclusion, i.e., what happens when discrimination and bias get in the way of opportunity. Cities like Kungalv, Sweden, for example, have measured the cost that a single violent, racist act can have on a community, and taken measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This Intolerance Project is being replicated today in cities across Sweden and beyond. Good ideas travel.
What’s the Building Inclusive Cities project you’re working on?
This is an exciting and timely new initiative that explores the complex and interconnected factors that contribute to open, inclusive cities in an era of global migration. A central component of the project is the My City of Migration (MyCOM) Diagnostic, a modular web app that asks a simple question: How inclusive is my city? Through a series of quizzes mapped to the urban landscape, MyCOM tests your experience of diversity and inclusion and compares it to others. When you’ve completed the diagnostic you’ll have a detailed snapshot of your city’s strengths and weaknesses across 10 dimensions of inclusion. We are beta-testing it now and it will be launched in September.
What would our readers be surprised to learn about migration in Toronto?
I think they’d be surprised at how eager cities are to learn from each other and share good practices. How many Torontonians know that our city has adopted the European Integrating Cities Charter? Or that the Toronto Newcomer Office launched its anti-racism strategy based on Barcelona’s “anti-rumour campaign”? As much as the world looks to Canada and cities like Toronto as champions of immigrant success, we also have much to learn from others. Cities are more alike than they are different and I see this in our monthly webinar series where we have brought together over 11,000 participants for city-to-city learning.
How do you think recent political developments in the U.S. and Europe will affect cities like Toronto?
It certainly puts the spotlight on cities. Mayors in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and many more have stood up and re-affirmed their commitment to immigrants and all the diversity their communities represent. Montreal has declared itself a sanctuary city. International students are flocking to Canadian universities like Ryerson. We should pay attention to the promise of this new cohort of young newcomers and potential citizens, and seize the opportunity to ensure our college and university campuses are exemplary places of inclusion where every kind of diversity thrives.