Maple Ridge: a little known land of diverse opportunities

Maple Ridge

Photo by Nemo's Great Uncle, Flickr

“They think we live in the boonies and have nothing to do,” says Stevie Shayler, 25, who has lived in Maple Ridge B.C. all her life.

“People honestly think we tip cows and hunt game for fun.”

If you don’t know what “tipping cows” means, you’re excused, as it doesn’t sound very nice to those poor cows, anyway.

What you should know is that Maple Ridge is far more than just the collective assumptions of those that don’t live there.

You might be surprised to discover that Maple Ridge is as diverse and multicultural as any other place–just on a much smaller scale.

The Unity-In-Diversity Multicultural Association of Maple Ridge (UID) is a major contributor in what they themselves call “build[ing] positive relationships among all people, strengthen[ing] equality and promot[ing] the end of all forms of prejudice.”

Since 1992 UID has strived to meet its mandate of recognizing “diversity in its broadest sense, including race, gender, age, class, religion, culture, difference of ability and education or economic positions.” And the association is proud of hosting community events like their annual Unity-In-Diversity evening celebration.

According to the District of Maple Ridge, since it’s inception in 1874, Maple Ridge with 33,000 acres, has become home to a population of 75,000 people.

In fact according to “over the past decade [Maple Ridge] has been one of the fastest growing municipalities in [Metro Vancouver]…growing at a rate of approximately 3.7 per cent over the last ten years.”

This tremendous growth has paved the way for Maple Ridge’s cultural evolution. As noted by the city’s most recent Official Community Plan (OCP 2007), there has been a marked increase in ethnic diversity in the community in recent years.

Supporting an ever-growing and diversifying population, Maple Ridge has seen a number of infrastructural and developmental advances over recent years. With a re-vitalized downtown-core, a renewed sense of community and belonging is palpable as people unite in celebrations of art, diversity and cultural exploration.

“The arts and culture are a major part of what makes Maple Ridge a unique and great place to call home,” says Mayor Ernie Daykin.

Downtown is home to everything from The ACT – arts centre & theatre, to the newly renovated leisure centre and library. It is also where the weekly farmer’s market, which supports local farmers and sustainable living, is held, and where many cultural celebrations, including the highly anticipated, Carribean Festival, take place.

Moreover, despite rapid growth, the “town still has that small town feel,” says Southeast Asian Kiren Gandham, 33, who was born and raised in Maple Ridge but now lives in Surrey B.C.

“I liked growing up there. Anywhere you went you would basically know someone,” she says. “It may be changing and developing but it still has its [small-town] charm”.

Gandham says she would still live in Maple Ridge, but her marriage has taken her to Surrey.

Although some are leaving Maple Ridge, its charm is drawing families from all over, and it is precisely what captured the heart of city council candidate Corisa Bell when she was a child.

Bell is originally from Terrace B.C., but spent her summers in Maple Ridge with relatives while growing up. Since then, she says she has always wanted to live in Maple Ridge, and nowhere else.

Bell moved to Maple Ridge six years ago to raise her two girls.

“I want them to be raised here, with small-town mentality, [but] with big-town opportunities,” she says. Something the UID recognizes.

The UID is proud that events like theirs help promote multiculturalism and diversity. They say it gives newcomers and long-time residents a chance to revel in an event that has grown from hosting close to 50 people back in 1992 to more than 500 people, today.  Their events have featured 70 cultures, including the contributions of the area’s Katzie First Nation.

“[Maple Ridge] is beautiful,” says Bell. “I want [my girls] to grow up and think – there is nowhere else in the world I would want to live than here.”


With files from Samuel Ramos