Much has changed in the last 26 years. Cell phones are no longer the size and weight of a brick, and the Vancouver Grizzlies have come and gone.
But some things haven’t changed – namely, the City of Burnaby’s equity policy, which was adopted in 1994. As noted by a staff report proposing a new equity policy, Burnaby’s diversity has changed significantly in that time.
Based on the 1991 census, 159,000 people in the city spoke 16 primary languages, including English. Change was already in progress by 1994, however, with self-identifying Chinese-Canadians growing from 12.7% of the overall population in 1991 to 30.8% in 1996.
Burnaby today, however, is a “hyper-diverse” community, one of only eight in Canada that doesn’t have a majority ethnic group. More than half of the city’s population was not born in Canada, according to the staff report, presented to the city’s executive committee. The city is the third-highest “refugee-receiving” city in B.C., and more than 120 languages are spoken in the city.
Staff also note that, while the 1994 equity policy focused on ethnic and cultural diversity, there are many more ways in which the city is more diverse. That includes abilities (11% of the city lives with some form of disability), age (16% is 65 or older), and sexual orientation and gender identity. Staff didn’t have city specific numbers, but noted 2 to 5% of Canadians identify as LGBTQ+ – a number that climbs to 10% among 18- to 34-year-olds.
“Over the last quarter century, Burnaby has witnessed significant changes in its demographic profile. It has evolved from a suburban community to a significant urban centre that is demographically, socially, economically and culturally diverse,” reads the staff report.
The city’s executive committee directed staff in December 2019 to devise new wording for the policy. Staff returned to the committee this week with a report, including that new wording.
The new policy focuses on the community more broadly, rather than just on city employees, and it makes an effort to define diversity.
While the current policy only notes that the city has a diverse community, the proposed new policy commits the city to welcoming “all community members regardless of ability, age, background, ethnocultural identification, gender, gender identity, immigration status, heritage, life experience, living arrangement, sexual orientation, and other factors.”
The current policy and the proposed new policy can be found in full below.