Simcoe County is preparing a funding application to build a new multicultural centre within county boundaries to address the needs of the growing immigrant population.
A staff report will be considered at county council's committee-of-the-whole meeting on Tuesday, outlining some of the details of the project.
While building plans and related costings are in early development, the report indicates the estimated size of the multicultural centre is projected at 22,000 square feet with an estimated costing of up to $9 million. No specific site has been proposed yet.
County staff are looking to partner with the newly incorporated non-profit Ethnic Mosaic Alliance (EMA) to apply for funding through the province to fund the project. The funding is planned to be split with the federal government paying 40 per cent, the provincial government paying 33.3 per cent and the applicant (EMA) paying 26.7 per cent, therefore at this stage, the county coffers wouldn’t be affected.
Previously, the Local Immigration Partnership through the County of Simcoe supported multiple multicultural groups spanning the county all aspiring to similar goals, so the county opted to work with the leaders of each group to identify common ground and shared interests. The EMA was formed from those leaders.
“From this new collective capacity perspective, these leaders came to envision the creation of a new not-for-profit organization, one that would promote their shared commitment to enriching our community, by embracing, promoting, and celebrating cultural diversity,” wrote Sandra Lee, manager of the Local Immigration Partnership in her report.
President of the EMA is local realtor Shelley Sarin, and the alliance includes members from various cultural organizations across Simcoe County.
The EMA was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in March 2019.
The group envisions establishing a multicultural centre “…that is safe and welcoming to all who wish to embrace the growing diversity in Simcoe County.”
Once built, revenues to support operating costs are planned to come from lease agreements, membership fees for ethno-cultural associations, programming fees, space rentals, and grants. The EMA would be responsible for the oversight and operation of the centre.
The report outlines hopes for the multicultural centre building, which would include a large gymnasium with a stage that can be used to accommodate large multicultural events and performances, an office administration space, meeting rooms/classrooms, a kitchen, storage spaces for ethno- cultural associations, washrooms, a foyer, and a music room.
The intention is to provide hub services, supports, and multicultural celebrations that meet immigrants’ needs. These may include settlement services, English language training, foreign language training (for children and youth), employment services, and programming for children and seniors.
In 2016, 61,605 immigrants, speaking 112 different languages resided in Simcoe County communities.
According to the staff report, Bradford West Gwillimbury has experienced the highest percentage growth. Of Bradford West Gwillimbury residents, 27.5 per cent are foreign born, and the number of immigrants in this community has increased 97 per cent between 2006 and 2016.
Innisfil experienced a 41.7 per cent increase in immigrant residency between 2006 and 2016 and immigrants comprise 15.8 per cent of that community’s total population.
New Tecumseth, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Essa, and the City of Barrie have also experienced immigrant population growth.
County council will be considering the report at their Oct. 22 committee-of-the-whole meeting.