Profile of Mayor David Miller
By David Nickle
David Miller is a newcomer to the office of Mayor of Toronto. He was a Councillor in Toronto since 1994 but it was only last November, after a hard-fought election, that he became Toronto’s second mayor.
He is also, you might be surprised to learn, a newcomer to Canada. David Miller was born in England, and came to this country with his mother in 1967.
“Because we came from England the transition with things like language was straightforward, but there were still challenges,” he told Canadian Newcomer. “Mom had a difficult time getting her accreditation accepted as a teacher. At the time they were recruiting teachers, but when she got here she didn’t meet the qualifications. And I had to learn things coming from England. I knew soccer and cricket, but we discovered that there was a very long winter here when everyone played hockey. But it was a land of opportunity for me in particular.”
Miller graduated from Harvard University with an economics degree, and became a lawyer after studying law at the University of Toronto. He joined the New Democratic Party, Canada’s largest left-wing political party, and in 1994 ran for office on the old Metropolitan Toronto Council to represent his home neighbourhood of High Park. When the new amalgamated City of Toronto came to be in 1998, Miller won a seat on the new council. Among other things, he chaired the new city’s Working Group for Immigration and Refugee Issues, and there helped to create a mentoring program, to help skilled immigrants like his mother get the help they need to start working in Canada.
“We started a mentoring program here so that foreign trained professionals and trades in certain areas can overcome the artificial barrier of needing Canadian experience, by having a mentor (or teacher) who’s a civil servant,” he said. “Now we’d like to start an interning program, so that someone like an Information Technology professional can get their first job at the city.”
Because Miller has only been mayor a few months, ideas like that are still only ideas. But he said he wanted to make it his mission to make it easier for doctors and engineers and teachers coming to Canada to be able to work here.
“I think the people of Toronto are very friendly to newcomers and I think the City of Toronto as an institution is friendly, but some other institutions, the professional bodies are not very friendly to newcomers and that should be changed,” he said.
Miller said that he is very aware of the important role that newcomers play in building Toronto. “Our city has incredible potential because we have the ability to learn from all of these different cultures, experiences, and all these people with great skills and training who come to Toronto to share their talents,” he said. “We have to pay real attention to making sure that when newcomers come here they’re welcomed with open arms and able to have real opportunities in the city.”
For someone who has just recently arrived, the best place to start looking for those opportunities is right in their own communities said Miller. “Get in touch with the City of Toronto, find out about our programs,” he said. “Go on our website. We have an immigration portal that will help you find out about contacts. Speak to the school principal. Get involved in local organizations like the parent council at school. If you do all that you will discover a whole range of opportunities opening up – to really be a Torontonian and give your family the best kind of opportunity.”