My Milton: Where diverse people live side by side

By Kim Steele

I moved to Milton for love, but also to live.

In November 2014 I was laid off from my job as stakeholder relations director in the pharmaceutical sector. After ten years in Toronto I was growing increasingly frustrated with congestion and construction; I found myself wondering what to do next and where to do it.

Having lived in different communities across Canada, I knew I had options. Born in Montreal, my parents picked up and moved us to Calgary in 1979, following the exodus to Alberta in pursuit of oil, that is, “black gold”.

At that time, Alberta was the fastest growing economy in Canada and its municipalities were booming. There were jobs for those who wanted them, and housing was going up fast and furiously. As the province became rich with royalties it became richer in its diversity, something that was both encouraged yet feared.

The community we lived in had the largest population of newcomers to Canada in all of Calgary. Our kindergarten to grade
12 school curricula was ripe with opportunity to learn about ourselves and each other. I drank it in like Kool Aid and loved having friends from all over the globe right in my own backyard and savoured the cultural curiosity we shared and celebrated.

But not everyone felt the same. As I grew older, the wide-eyed wonderment of childhood discovery turned to woeful disappointment of those who felt threatened by newcomers to our community; these fears often exerted themselves in hurtful and hateful ways. This broke my heart, but it also blew my mind: surely building strong, diverse communities was good for growing the economy and ourselves?

I took a personal vow to celebrate diversity loudly and proudly. I studied anthropology and linguistics, became an advocate for post-secondary students from all walks of life in my roles of VP Academic, then VP External of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal College and the president of the provincial student organization. While at the University of Alberta I continued my work as an advocate leading policy development at the students union, and took to radio airwaves and print to spread my broadcasting wings.

I then headed to our nation’s capital, Ottawa, to lead policy development for a national post-secondary student organization, where I stayed for two years before being called to Toronto for a short stint with a think tank. Since that time, I held increasingly senior strategic communications and community engagement roles with some of Canada’s leading health charities and associations.

So, yes, I had options and I chose Milton. Why? As I said, for love: to join my partner of several years in his home town; but I also came here to live, to contribute to my new home in ways that energize, empower. Through my new blog – My Milton – I hope to engage my fellow Miltonians in ways that have meaningful impact on our community, that help other newcomers like me come to know and be a part of our new home.

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