Imagine that you’ve moved to a new city where you have no friends or relations. How would you learn how things work in your new home?
You would probably look at your new city’s website. You could reasonably expect that you could find out about bus schedules, recreation facilities and so on. If you were thinking about starting a business, you would expect to find information about how to go about getting a licence and finding information about zoning restrictions and the like.
Now imagine you are a newcomer to Edmonton and you visit our city’s website. Not surprisingly, many of the things that you are likely to look for are there. You can, in fact, find out about transportation, jobs with the city, bylaws, etc. You can also find out about initiatives the city is undertaking with planning, housing for the homeless and so on.
So far, so good. Now try this. In the search area, enter the words “foreign language.” If you do, up will pop a number of items, one of which is Edmonton Social Plan — New Canadians and Visible Minorities (2006). Cool. This shows you that you have chosen a city that acknowledges newcomers. In fact, there are a number of areas on the website that talk about Edmonton’s multicultural nature.
But let’s take a look at the social planning report more carefully. On page 21, you will find this bit of information. In 2005, 38.6 per cent of newcomers to Edmonton spoke neither English nor French. This should come as no surprise to anyone. As the report also shows, in 2005, immigrants from China accounted for 18 per cent of new Edmontonians, the Phillipines contributed 13.7 per cent and India 13.5 per cent.
Now let’s go back to the home page of the city’s website. Look at it carefully. See if you can notice something that is quite strange given the report you have just read. Tick tock, tick tock. Time’s up.
Did you notice the entire site is in English? Is there any area to click on if you’re not an English speaker?
Is there any indication of who you could contact if you needed someone to explain how the city works in your mother tongue?
So much for our reputation as a multicultural city.