As cities become more and more culturally diverse, it is vital that all residents are encouraged to become part of the life and fabric of that city. More importantly, cities must develop policies and practices that include all of its residents. Like many organizations, cities tout their diverse population as an asset. For example, the motto of the City of Toronto is “Diversity Our Strength.” A great slogan but one wonders if Toronto is really leveraging that “strength.”
Cities, like individuals and any organization, must become more culturally competent in order to be more productive — whether in the arts, science, or finance.
Cultural Competence is a set of behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together to enable an organization (or a city) to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. This requires certain skills, knowledge, awareness and attitudes towards others who are “different.”
Recent developments in The Town of Aurora, 30 miles north of Toronto, indicate what can happen when a municipality responds to it changing population.
The Asian population has been growing in Aurora; and along with their restaurants, and markets, Asians have brought their superstitions about the number 4 which sounds like the word “death” in their language. The town has received many requests to change addresses with the number 4 in them.
The Town Council voted to allow residents to change their street numbers so long as there is a wide enough numbering gap. Other municipalities outside Toronto with a growing Asian population are allowing the practice.
It may seem like a small thing, but allowing Asian residents to give into their supersitutions (much like the one non-Asian resident who was allowed to change his address from 666, which is considered the mark of the Antichrist, to 668) is an indication that citities can and should respond to the cultural traditions of its residents so long as it does not pose a danger to others.