Ryersonian: Learning the language of diversity

Appeared online and in print for the Ryersonian, Feb. 15, 2012

Matt Buie’s hometown is so small that it has no official name. Instead, he tells people that he’s from Duntroon, Ont., which is the closest officially recognized address – a hamlet consisting of fewer than 200 residents, a single intersection and an “extremely white” community.

“There’s multiculturalism there but not enough that you’d actually take notice,” he says.

When Buie moved to Toronto to study architecture at Ryerson University, he experienced more diversity within the four corners of Dundas Square than he did in his entire hometown.

He left an area where visible minorities are a real minority – accounting for only two per cent of the Clearview Township population, where Duntroon is located – and came to a city where these groups are almost the majority. With an urban population comprised of 47 per cent visible minorities, almost every other person Buie sees in Toronto appears ethnically distinct from him. Surrounded by the city’s many diverse cultures, Buie says he couldn’t help but notice how different the big city is from small-town Canada.

His experience is not unique. More than 700 Ryerson undergraduate students are from Ontario towns with a population of fewer than 10,000 people, according to university planning office data. And in these rural areas, visible minorities typically account for only a small percentage of the population, according to Statistics Canada.

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