The genesis of Edmonton Multicultural Coalition can be traced to an innovative project spearheaded by the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative in 2002. The project aimed at developing civic space and engagement for ethno-cultural communities in the City of Edmonton. Initially funded by Health Canada through the Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI), more than 120 community members participated in 36 policy education workshops in which four issues were identified as major determinants of holistic ethno-cultural communities’ health. These are:
- Unequal access to suitable employment opportunities for foreign-trained professionals and workers;
- Limited access to educational opportunities for newcomers and under funding of English as a Second Language (ESL) support programs;
- Inability to access affordable and culturally appropriate health services and;
- Isolation and exclusion of ethno-cultural communities from civic and political participation in Canadian society.
Consequently, participants of this consultation process decided to form a multicultural coalition to articulate and advocate a policy agenda for health and well-being addressing the identified four priority issues in collaboration with government and community organizations. With that Edmonton`s Multicultural Coalition.Dr. Lucenia Ortis Coordinated the formation of the Coalition initiated and led by 10 various ethno-cultural communities in Edmonton who shared a vision of inclusive and equitable society.
Although the Coalition was an initiative of Multicultural Health Brokers Coop (established 1995) and continues to partner with the Coop, it has grown in leaps and bounds to acquire a life of its own. During our 9th Annual General Meeting on October 29 2011, members voted to change the name to Edmonton Multicultural Coalition. To broaden the range and scope of its activities to reflect changing times, the board recommended and members approved to seek registration as a fully-fledged charity.
One of the main outcomes in the mobilization process for the Coalition is the realization that immigrants and refugees from a diversity of cultural backgrounds share common barriers to integration in Canadian society. A necessary element for the development of the Coalition's group solidarity included the ability to move beyond speaking for a specific ethnic minority group (e.g. "These are the issues that face the South Asian community") to speaking on behalf of immigrants as a whole (e.g. "These are the issues that face the immigrant community"). The Coalition is guided by the principles of conscientization, participation, and community capacity building.