Hashtag unites Hamilton in welcoming newcomers

Hanan is a high school student who dreams of being a nurse one day. James is an electrical engineer who likes to bike from Dundas to downtown. Aref is a dedicated community volunteer who loves Hamilton’s libraries. And Shahd? She’s a recent marketing graduate who has discovered the best ice cream in town is on Duke Street.

They’re all immigrants to Hamilton and ambassadors for #HamiltonForAll, a campaign that helps newcomers and longer-term Hamiltonians find common ground.

“The campaign ambassadors serve as a human library,” says Yohana Otite, executive director for Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, which is co-leading the campaign with the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council. “They tell their stories on our website and at schools and events so we can discover our commonalities instead of focusing on what separates us.”

Myth busting is one component of the campaign. One myth is that Canada doesn’t need immigrants: a 2017 University of Toronto survey shows that one in five Canadians would support an end to immigration. The fact is, according to the Conference Board of Canada, our country will need 350,000 immigrants annually by 2035 to meet its workforce needs.

Supported by an HCF grant in partnership with the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, #HamiltonForAll includes posters inviting people to post a welcome message using the hashtag, and a website listing inclusive actions anyone can take. “Welcoming newcomers is usually left to settlement agencies,” Yohana says. “#HamiltonForAll inspires everyone to play a role.”  Activities across the city are being plotted on a map to be shared at Hamilton’s first Newcomer’s Day this summer.

The hashtag was trending on Twitter when the campaign launched. Since then, people and organizations have been showcasing the posters, planning events and posting on social media. The impact has been widespread and personal. As one person tweeted: “Thank you for launching a campaign like this. I cannot tell you what this would’ve meant to me as a child.”


Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report