Mayoral candidates were invited to share their ideas and positions about issues facing newcomers in Winnipeg ahead of the civic election.

Immigration Partnership Winnipeg (IPW) hosted a forum on Saturday that tackled topics around immigrants, refugees and newcomers.

IPW called the forum a "first-of-its kind."

It said the forum was held as part of a campaign this election to encourage newcomers to vote called ‘Got Citizenship? Go Vote!’ 

The forum aimed to provide a space for immigrant and refugee community members to ask questions of candidates in respect to their positions on immigrant employment opportunities, poverty reduction, diversity-expanding initiatives and a host of other newcomer civic concerns.

“Traditionally, immigrant and refugee voter turnout amongst eligible voters is quite low,” said IPW director Abdikheir Ahmed in a press release. 

“We want to change that and ensure more newcomer Winnipeggers come out to vote so they have a say in who makes decisions on their behalf at City Council and on the school boards.” 

In 2017, Statistics Canada said visible minorities make up one quarter of the population in Winnipeg, with 52,000 immigrants settling in the city within the last five years.

The forum's organizers said voter turnout is low among newcomers because they don't realize they're eligible to vote.

"As long as they are Canadian citizens, as long as they are 18 years of age, and as long they reside in the area, the residence of the area in which they are entitled to vote, that they are able to,” said Krishna Lalbiharie with Immigration Partnership Winnipeg.

 IPW said the forum is supported by more than a dozen organizations in Winnipeg including, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, Islamic Social Services Association, Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (Welcome Place), Mount Carmel Clinic and YMCA.


Six out of eight mayoral candidates attended the forum.

Each gave an opening statement and were asked about making Winnipeg a more welcoming and inclusive city. 

The following is an excerpt of what each of them said:

"A newcomer welcome and inclusive policy for the city of Winnipeg, there's never been one." said Brian Bowman.

"I agree with the mayor to have an inclusion policy, but would like to have it include everyone," said Ed Ackerman.

"You look at the cross section of police officers, there's a lot of women, but the diversity is not entirely reflective of Winnipeg," said Tim Diack. 

"Open our immigration policy, bring immigrants here so we can start an effective, prosperous economy," said Umar Hayat.

“Every person that comes to Winnipeg has a talent or skill. we need to make use of those talents and skills,” said Doug Wilson.

"Make sure all the jobs of the city are available to all regardless of race,” Don Woodstock. 

 Jenny Motkaluk’s campaign told CTV News it appreciates the invitation but is not attending the forum.

“Jenny is visiting senior facilities today. The campaign provided ample notice to all forum hosts that Jenny would not be attending forums that do not offer an open debate format. Notice was respectfully provided to all organizers several days ago,” said aa representative from her campaign in an email.

“Jenny is excited to welcome all newcomers to our inclusive city where diversity is celebrated as one of our greatest attributes. Stay tuned for further policy announcements from Jenny pertaining to newcomers to Winnipeg.”

Venkat Machiraju told CTV News he wasn't at the forum because he took a break from campaigning.

Machiraju said he wants to make it easier for newcomers to find employment and adjust to Winnipeg’s cold climate.