Cities of Migration – the 3rd annual – is put on by Ratna Omidvar and Diversity Global Exchange and is happening in Toronto until Friday March 4. The tag line is “Diversity Drives Prosperity” so of course I was intrigued, and looking forward to participating in and listening to some broader conversations about inclusion. I wasn’t disappointed.
Here are a few notable highlights:
Toronto Mayor John Tory did the Welcoming Address and underlined his commitment to not just diversity, but inclusion in our city. “Our prosperity depends on getting the most out of diversity’” he said. And then continued with “Prosperity advances our ability to achieve social justice.”
My heart warmed to hear the words ‘social justice’ from a politician.
At the end of the day, the Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees was on stage in conversation with Ratna Omidvar. When asked about taking in refugees while we have Canadians who are struggling with poverty and substandard housing etc., he said “I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.” I look forward to seeing an emphasis on both welcoming immigrants and remembering that there are many people on our land (Indigenous, for one large important group) that also need attention.
Wendy Cukier (VP Research & Innovation, Ryerson University) reminded us that “deep-rooted racism, despite our diversity, is a problem that continues to plague us” – in Toronto and in Canada. Finally, someone said it out loud!
Yuen Pau Woo (President, HQ Vancouver) talked about the growing Asian population in Vancouver and asked, “What are we mainstreaming into when the majority mainstream is not the old mainstream?” He also gave us a history lesson – the Canadian Railway wasn’t built to unite the country (or at least that wasn’t the main purpose) – it was built to have access to Asia and the Asian market! Ah hah!
Cameron Bailey (Artistic Director, TIFF) talked about the many gatekeepers in the film industry and therefore the many potential barriers to inclusion. He also made it clear that he’s not the diversity at TIFF; that his position doesn’t guarantee diversity. His mandate is to make sure structures are in place to continue that legacy and commitment after he is no longer there. Hooray! So important.
Shaama Saggar-Malik (Founder and ED of DiPA, London) talked about diversity and inclusion in public appointments: “I don’t want to be at the table having the same conversation, I want to be at the table changing the conversation. What is the conversation we are asking people to be part of?” That is the point of diversity – to broaden the conversation.
There were two questions that were asked from the “floor” that were not really addressed which was frustrating because they were excellent ones:
– One regarding the experience of push back from Canadian Aboriginal/First Nations communities regarding immigrant inclusion when they themselves have been and continue to be excluded here in Canada. So much to think about there.
– And another about who is not part of these conversations about inclusion and diversity; whose voices and perspectives are missing? True. Usually at these events it’s the “usual suspects”.
Overall, it was an inspiring, through-provoking day with a mixture of speakers from Germany, the UK, the USA and Canada, all committed to supporting immigrants and immigration, and furthering the conversation – and the implementation – of diversity driving prosperity through inclusion.
Thank you Ratna Omidvar and the Global Diversity Exchange!
Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
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