Lincoln Estridge has lived in North Ajax all his life. While attending Pickering High School, he was recommended by Ajax’s Community Recreation Supervisor Ashley McWhirther to apply for the first Black Excellence Scholarship.

While applying for the first Black Excellence Scholarship, which he won, he found himself questioned about his varying interests and what he expected of his future. While being active in sports as a youth, he was also dedicated with his studies.

“I wanted to show that I was academically inclined as well,” he said.

Estridge currently goes to the University of Ontario. He is studying to be a mechanical engineer, currently one of the highest in demand jobs in Canada.

Estridge, whose parents came to Canada from Jamaica and Saint Kitts in the early 1980s, is one of many visible minorities, including first-generation Canadians and recent immigrants, who are part of the changing face of the Durham community and Canada at large.

According to Stats Canada 2016 census, more than one in five Canadians are from other countries. In Ajax, compared to other areas in Durham Region, there is a rise in population growth and diversity.

The number of visible minorities in Ajax, many of them new citizens, has steadily grown over the years.  As more people emigrate to Canada, smaller communities will grow to reflect the face of the country. This is already happening here in Durham.

One of the areas in Ajax that reflects this is Imagination, a housing community in North Ajax, near Audley Road.

While Ajax has grown recently in population, it has always been an area which has seen newcomers to Canada come to.

According to Snapshots of Ajax: A Pictorial History, the first settler of the area, originally known as Brown’s Corner, was Alexander Dunlop of Scotland in 1835. Known then as a gathering area for entertainment, it eventually became an enclosed community with many residents’ descendants still living in the area.

According to A Town Called Ajax, most of these newcomers were from European countries such as Ireland, England, and Scotland, like Dunlop.

the family ofDaniel McBrady, an immigrant from Ireland, who came to Canada in 1837
the family ofDaniel McBrady, an immigrant from Ireland, who came to Canada in 1837

Similar to those times, the community is made up of many families, with several houses still in development.

According to Statistics Canada, the majority of these new residents in Ajax immigrated from Asian, South American, and West Indian countries.

According to the Town of Ajax website, 46 per cent of citizens identify as a visible minority.

Several of these minorities are in fact new Canadians, looking for jobs in their field and learning about their new community.

One of several places that helps to find jobs for newcomers in Ajax is the Welcome Centre Immigration Services.

The Centre acts as a hub for those new to Canada since 2013. The welcome Centre offers free job workshops, English language assessments, and a mentorship program.

Hermia Corbette is the Manager of the Welcome Centre Immigration Services in Ajax.

Corbette said the Welcome Centre work alongside the Local Diversity & Immigration Partnership Council (LDIPC) to find what is most needed.

According to the Durham Immigration website, in 2005. The Canadian Ontario Immigration Agreement was put into place. This meant the federal and local government were made to help immigrants integrate into their new communities.

The LDICP, composed of business groups, school boards and other sectors, work with local employers to keep workplaces diverse.

“They work to make it a place of promise for people to want to live in,” Corbette said.

Robert Gruber, the Community and Cultural Development Manager for the town of Ajax, says that together with the Welcome Centre, the town hosts bi-annual newcomers bus tours. “We take them to community centres, some of our libraries, the get to meet the mayor or a member of council.” he said.

Photo by Kayano Waite
Robert Gruber, the Community and Cultural Development Manager for the town of Ajax.

Ajax is dedicated not only to the immediate integration, but to long term engagement and acceptance of newcomers.

The Town of Ajax is currently in Phase 2 of its Diversity and Community Engagement Plan, which is divided into four segments: The Town as an Employer, Programs & Services, Community & Civic Engagement, and Youth Engagement.

Last year, Ajax launched the #AjaxforAll initiative an educational, focusing on issues such as stereotyping and xenophobia.

Similar to Toronto’s #TorontoforAll, #AjaxforAll will display posters throughout the town with eight local “ambassadors”.

Estridge was nominated to be a part of the initiative and says he has found it to be a great success so far.

“I feel that the diversity in Ajax is so powerful now,” Estridge said. “[People] tend to automatically put people in boxes, it’s been great to see people break out of those boxes.”

According to Global News, the federal government if planning one increasing the number of new immigrants in Canada starting this year. The number is set to start at 310, 000 this until reaches 340, 000 in 2020.

This will be the largest number of new citizens allowed into the country since 1913.

Gruber says the increased immigration is important for the country. “You need to be able to have immigrants coming in and have them be part of the economy,” he said. “It’s a smart move to really have a robust and good immigration policy to get people to come.” Estridge also agrees. “I think if we accept these people and accept their cultures, I think we could increase our overall knowledge.”

“I think if we accept these people and accept their cultures, I think we could increase our overall knowledge.”

This would benefit Canadians as a whole. And with new citizens coming in, this helps to balance out the aging demographic we have now.

With the average life expectancy growing longer, we now have more senior citizens to take care of and according to Stats Can, nearly 17 per cent of our citizens are 65 years or older.

There are also fewer children being born to bridge the gap. Compared to generations past when families would be larger, women are now averaging 1.6 children during their lifetime.

The land of Ajax is changing and the face that represent it are as well.

Estridge has been selected for the second year for the #AjaxforAll initiative and while plans are still being made, Estridge says that it will focus on youth and how they will bring change to the community.