BOW VALLEY – The Bow Valley has been a hub for not only international visitors, but also a workforce from across the world.
Walking down any downtown street or entering most stores in either Banff or Canmore, people will likely hear an accent of a welcoming person helping them.
With the international workforce having such a significant impact on businesses, the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership (BVIP) is asking employers to join an inclusion charter to help employees succeed in the valley.
“Everyone plays a role in the community to help us build a thriving valley. We’re all better off when we work together to support newcomers and diverse team members to succeed,” said Natasha Lay, the communications and outreach specialist with BVIP.
“We can open a lot of doors for people, but we need local businesses to help us make those connections with newcomers in the community. This is a really exciting opportunity for businesses.”
The charter has 17 specific actions in five main categories or referrals, communication, organizational culture, accessibility and emergency preparedness.
Each of the five categories has goals, which can range from an inclusive hiring checklist, offering resources in translated languages spoken by workers and having an employer be trained in intercultural competency and anti-racism community of practice.
Since BVIP first piloted the charter in 2018, Lay said there’s been interest across the country for similarly conceived charters.
“There’s a national movement to help employers connect with service providers to see how we can work together to help people stay here because I think a lot of the time we could do better together,” she said.
When a person from outside Canada first comes to the country, their first connection is typically with an employer.
“We play a critical role in creating a welcoming workplace and an inclusive community. The Workplace Inclusion Charter gives us a practical roadmap to help all our team members to succeed here,” said Heather Bodnarchuk, the human resources manager for Banff Caribou Properties in a media release. “We are excited to participate again this year and encourage more Bow Valley employers to sign up.”
Lay said the intent is to create a welcoming and inclusive workplace as possible, which in turn helps people remain and prosper in the valley.
“There’s a lot of research that shows diverse and inclusive businesses perform better. … We wanted to make it easier for local businesses to support diverse members of the community to help the health of their businesses and employee retention,” she said.
“We asked what specific and practical actions could businesses do to support inclusion and integration of their diverse employees. We listened to the community and we came up with this list of commitments and worked with employers to make sure they were realistic.”
The charter has nine valley employers including the Rimrock Resort Hotel, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Pursuit Collection Banff Jasper, Banff Park Lodge and Fairmont Banff Springs among others.
The charter has also been supported by several valley-based agencies such as the Job Resource Centre, the Bow Valley Learning Council, the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce and Settlement Services in the Bow Valley.
The BVIP was founded in 2014 to help connect people and organizations in the valley to help with inclusion. It now has more than 60 members, including municipalities, businesses, non-profits and residents.
It is also part of a network of local immigration partnerships in Canada funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The charter allows employers to become a signatory if they complete at least five of 17 actions before Sept. 30. For a business achieving seven, they hit the bronze level and 10 becomes silver. If at least 14 are reached, the business can reach the gold champion.
As Canadians, it’s also not uncommon to take for granted the ease in understanding certain aspects of day-to-day life.
For example, Lay said understanding COVID-19 public health recommendations, finding English learning resources and completing taxes are relatively straightforward for most Canadians. However, for people coming from abroad and having English as a second, third or fourth language, it may not be as easy.
“I think we take for granted the access that we have in the valley," she said. "We have some amazing service providers. … It can be challenging for a newcomer and while it might not seem like a huge difference, it actually is because it can mean the difference for someone wanting to stay in the Bow Valley or moving somewhere else.”
For a full list of the 17 actions in the charter, visit: www.inclusioncharter.ca/bowvalley.