By Gregor Robertson – Vancouver Mayor
For many communities and cultures, spring symbolizes renewal and prosperity – a time to reflect on community achievements and look ahead to where we can grow together. This spring, City Council has spurred community renewal by implementing several symbolic and important initiatives that commemorate Vancouver's diverse growth while acknowledging our history and recognizing there is more to be done to be a fully inclusive city.
Vancouver's diversity is one of our greatest strengths and this past month provided the opportunity to remember past victories over injustices while recognizing present day inequalities that must be overcome. I'm proud Vancouver has become the first city in Western Canada to provide safe access to City services for all residents, regardless of immigration status. The newly passed Access Without Fear policy allows vulnerable residents, whether they're foreign students or workers with expired permits, refugees whose claims were rejected, or temporary foreign workers who lost their jobs, to access City of Vancouver services without being afraid of being reported to the Canada Border Services Agency. It's a first step, and a critical one, towards getting other civic areas to follow similar policies of inclusivity.
In the same week, South Asian elders, community activists, business leaders and people from all walks of life joined us at City Hall for the proclamation of Jack Uppal Street, the first named after a South Asian Canadian in the history of Vancouver.
Mr. Uppal dedicated his life to standing up for equal rights and opportunities, and was at the forefront of paving the way for a more equal Vancouver, free from racism and discrimination. I'm proud that the City of Vancouver finally recognized an outstanding community leader and role model for all Vancouverites.
While recognizing Vancouver's past, we must steer the city forward inclusively and sustainably.
South Vancouver is on the cusp of renewal. Council recently approved a new development in the Punjabi Market that will provide 75 secured market rental units – 39% of which are 2 and 3 bedrooms – while preserving the neighbourhood's diverse and vibrant character. A public art piece will also be added to the front façade of the building to reflect community stories and the area's special legacy. The Punjabi Market is an important part of the city that has been struggling for many years and I believe this new development is the first meaningful step in its revitalization.
Down the street, the Marine Gateway development has officially opened, bringing a new suite of amenities and walkability to an area of the city that was previously underserved. The positive spinoff effects echo throughout the neighbourhood with more town homes, new parks, and new childcare spaces for all neighbourhood residents to access and enjoy.
One of the biggest and most important events in South Vancouver – and one of my favourite occasions of the year – is the Vaisakhi parade. For over thirty years, this parade has wound its way through the streets of Punjabi Market and South Vancouver with educational and colourful floats and the rhythms of song and dance filling the air. The Vaisakhi parade is the largest in the city outside of the downtown core and draws over 100,000 people to commemorate the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Vaisakhi marks the traditional beginning of the harvest season in Punjab – a time when family and friends gather to celebrate hard work and shared success. It's an opportunity reflect on the year that's passed and imagine a future filled with promise and hope for everyone. It also provides a chance for people of all cultural backgrounds to engage in the values of selfless community service and allows all of us to learn and engage with the diversity of the city.
I'm pleased to see that the Khalsa Diwan Society has taken initiative in partnership with Vancity Credit Union to make this year's parade the Greenest Vaisakhi ever. With more than 30 recycling and washing stations set up throughout the parade and a crew of volunteers, the Khalsa Diwan Society is aiming to divert over 90% of the waste generated by the parade from our landfills. This is the first time one of our three Civic Status parades has set such an ambitious target for green initiatives and I'm proud Vaisakhi is leading the way.
As I reflect and look forward this Vaisakhi season, I am struck by how far we have come together as a community. Honouring figures like Jack Uppal, fostering revitalization projects throughout the city, and taking care of our most vulnerable residents allow us collectively to focus our vision to create a more equal Vancouver. But more can be done. South Vancouver and the many communities within it are an important and impactful part of our vibrant City and we will continue working to ensure it is a prosperous place for everyone. Happy Vaisakhi!
Gregor Robertson is the Mayor of Vancouver.