Government’s job is ensuring everyone has equal access

By William Doyle-Marshall

Michael Coteau, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration wants to bring a renewed sense of citizenship to his new portfolio.  He told members of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC) at their February meeting he is looking forward to establishing a renewed sense of citizenship.

  The newly appointed minister noted there is talk about multicultural, diversity, inclusion, and so many different pieces that really speak to citizenship – real citizenship. With his new responsibility for citizenship and immigration, Coteau wants to put serious meaning to what it means to be a real citizen of a nation.  He intends identifying what it means to reap all the rewards that come along with citizenship. 

   In regards to moving forward with the ministry, Coteau said some exciting things are happening, including a partnership programme with the not-for-profits sector, which has been in development for quite awhile. “Now we are looking at how they can better leverage the use of different things like technology. There are some 45,000 not-for-profit organizations in Ontario and my job as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is responsible for the not for profit sector as well,” he disclosed.

  A lot of the not-for-profit organizations work within Ontario communities and Coteau insisted government has to make sure that they have the ability to find out what grants are available.  “We are going to make sure they have that type of information and it is readily available,” the minister said.

Anybody with whom he has the ability to have a discussion, Coteau expects them to walk away knowing that the current Ontario government is here to serve them, to provide them with programmes, services and different types of information that they can access. “I think our job as ministers, as MPPs, as government officials is to make sure that everyone has equal access to information and has the ability to reap the rewards that society has to offer as a whole,” Coteau stressed.

   With a strong background as a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee, Coteau has always been a strong advocate for people taking control of the world around them. Going out and speaking to young people about taking control of their world and being part of the process has always been a part of his mission. Consequently he has always approached his community as being their representative and their voice.

  Calling himself an immigrant to Canada born in Yorkshire, England who arrived when he was four years old with my brother to live in Flemingdon Park, Coteau said he is a person who understands some parts of other cultures. “I thought this is an exciting opportunity having been on the district school board,” he remarked

   During conversations with young children who go into this legislature, he informs them that they are the owners the building and they and their parents pay the salaries of politicians. “So I think that sense of true citizenship, ownership for government I would like to bring them into the mix,” Coteau promised, He is troubled that Canadians who have been here for ten years, 20 years or two generations, are not fully aware of the meaning of being a full citizen.

   Talking about the new Ontario Immigration Strategy which focuses on five objectives, Coteau emphasized attracting the best and brightest to the province so that Ontario can continue to contribute to a growing economy to benefit all Ontarians. The strategy’s second intention is to make sure when people land in the province they have the services and structure necessary to truly benefit what it means to be an Ontario resident. Leveraging the province’s multiculturalism and diversity to really extract the true value of what that means in Ontario, is another wrung of the strategy.

   Coteau was proud to acknowledge that people from all parts of the world coming here with dreams. This is the place where they are connecting with each other, he observed. “Someone from Ethiopia connecting with someone from China; someone from China connecting with someone from Greece. You can do those kinds of things here in Ontario. You can’t do that in any other place in the world. It is very difficult to do it in most places. There are a few exceptions but Ontario is probably the most diverse place on the entire planet. So I hope that we can make sure that strategy goes forward again so newcomers can land here and be successful,” Coteau concluded.

   During a question and answer session journalists quizzed him about a range of concerns including increasing civic and youth participation; ensuring qualified new Canadians are able to secure employment in their fields and working with the federal government to get its fair share of skilled workers under the temporary skilled workers programme.

February 26, 2013