Top Stories

by Priya Ramanujam in Toronto

Immigration and the ‘immigrant experience’ are often used as a smokescreen to mask systemic racism and exclusion.

This is according to Neethan Shan, executive director of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), who led a roundtable discussion titled “Equity and Inclusion Across Multiple Terrains” at the 18th National Metropolis Conference on Mar. 4, along with a handful of researchers and service providers.

“Through our work we find that so much of the struggle that immigrants go through is related to race and racism and that inequity and exclusion are tied to race,” Shan said in his opening remarks.

Shan pointed out that systemic racism exists both at the policy level, highlighting the controversial Bill C-24 as an example, and on the ground in many aspects of settlement such as education, recreation and employment.

Racism in employment

When it comes to employment, the expectations of Canadian experience, language proficiency and an understanding of ‘soft skills’, have undertones of racism and exclusion, explained Shan.

“Part of my experience coming to Canada was figuring out what Canadians meant when they said stuff like, ‘Keep your stick on the ice,’ – that is a soft skill,” shared Ikem Opara, who participated in the roundtable and works as a strategy lead at the Ontario Trillium Foundation. “It can be exclusionary when you don’t know that that means something other than take a stick and put it on the ice.”

Admitting he agrees with the idea of "soft skills", though, Opara said the problem with them lies in understanding why some are prioritized over others.

“I don’t think there is any cultural community in the world that does not like resiliency, the issue is what it looks like when it is performed in a cultural community that is not yours.”

One of the panellists, Nadia Jamil, of the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group, explained her organization is conducting a study to unpack the concept of soft skills and why they are a leading factor to newcomers not being able to retain employment.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]When it comes to employment, the expectations of Canadian experience, language proficiency and an understanding of ‘soft skills’, have undertones of racism and exclusion...[/quote]

“If we’re going to continue to see there to be a ‘norm’ in Canada without kind of wondering where that norm came from, there’s going to be a lot of ‘othering’ taking place, which we see a lot of in the workplace,” said Jamil.

Shan explained that sometimes even in the settlement sector this can be reinforced, when career counsellors will remove something from a person’s resume without considering what that experience meant to them, or when they emphasize the importance of a handshake or eye contact without contextualizing it.

“I think [soft skills] is a terminology that’s made up pretty much for exclusion,” stated Umashanie Reddy, executive director at Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth “I don’t practise it in my organization and I don’t ask for it.”

Assimilation, not integration

Reddy, who was raised in South Africa, said there is definitely covert racism in Canada.

“I grew up in an apartheid regime country and I know exactly when someone’s being racist,” she said. “It’s so under the trenches that you can’t see it. It’s very rife in workplaces.”

Reddy said the challenge for many immigrants is that when they finally land employment, they do not want to jeopardize it by speaking out about racism on the job so their “hands are tied.”

“When we accept people from other countries, then we have to accept the entire package – not half the package,” said Reddy. Otherwise, she added, “we’re no longer talking about integration, we’re talking about assimilation … I don’t think that’s the route we want to go.”

Malissa Bryan, a PhD student in sociology at the University of Guelph, said the current ‘norm’ is Euro-centric, which is problematic as it doesn’t value the rich histories of Canada’s indigenous people or other ethno-cultural communities.

“There’s not enough cultural exchange happening, so when different people come to Canada it should be acceptance on both ends where there’s a joint and new culture formed that’s considered a Canadian culture,” Bryan explained. “There’s a lot of tolerance, but not necessarily inclusion.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There’s not enough cultural exchange happening, so when different people come to Canada it should be acceptance on both ends where there’s a joint and new culture formed that’s considered a Canadian culture.”[/quote]

Fighting for change   

Shan, and his organization CASSA, have been working on a campaign to raise public awareness in Ontario so that residents will accept and acknowledge that racial inequity – structural, institutional and individualized – exists.

The campaign, Racism Free Ontario, played a role in the province appointing a Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, Michael Coteau, last month.

Coteau will oversee an Anti-Racism Directorate, which will specifically examine the four ministries of justice, health, education and employment, where systemic racism is most evident, Shan explained.

But, Shan cautioned, just because there’s now a government body established, it doesn’t mean the work is over. For people like him, fighting racism is a lifelong commitment.

Having arrived in Canada at age 16 as a refugee from Sri Lanka, Shan said he has had to work four times harder than his affluent, Caucasian counterpart, to get where he is today.

“It feels like I’m ready to retire now because of the impact of fighting those barriers.”

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by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver 

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: The Liberal government is set to repeal Bill C-24; municipal councils wage war on Uber and Canadians react to Haryana violence in India. 

Liberals plan to repeal Bill C-24 

The Liberal government has announced that it will be making significant changes to the Citizenship Act, repealing the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-24. 

The bill gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. According to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, John McCallum, the new measures will make it nearly impossible to revoke citizenship. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he government says that it plans to remove barriers to citizenship posed by Bill C-24.[/quote]

Immigration officials will still be able to revoke citizenship if it was obtained by false representation or fraud and the federal court will be able to remove someone’s citizenship if they are involved in organized crime, war crimes or crimes against humanities. 

Of particular interest to new and aspiring Canadians, the government says that it plans to remove barriers to citizenship posed by Bill C-24. 

As reported in the Canadian Immigrant magazine, McCallum announced Feb. 23, “We believe that it’s better to make it easier rather than harder for people to become citizens.” 

Expected changes include reducing the length of time that someone must be physically present in Canada to qualify for citizenship, allowing time in Canada before permanent residency to count toward physical residency requirements and amending the age range for language and citizenship knowledge exams. 

The government also intends to repeal the intent to reside provision, which caused some immigrants to fear that they could lose their citizenship if they moved outside of Canada. 

While McCallum didn’t elaborate on what other changes would be made, he told The Globe & Mail that specifics would follow “in coming days, but not very many days.” 

The government is set to table its annual immigration report before Mar. 9 and it will outline targets for all classes of immigrants, including Syrian refugees. 

Uber-taxi war rages in Brampton 

The battle against Uber in Ontario continues as Brampton City Council voted on Wednesday to temporarily suspend ride-sharing companies until the City can decide whether or not to allow them to operate in the area. 

The motion, which was brought forward by city councillor Gurpreet S. Dhillon, was unanimously accepted by council, who cited concerns over public safety, consumer protection, fairness and regulation. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is a victory for the residents of Brampton.”[/quote]

“This is a victory for the residents of Brampton,” said Dhillon, as reported by The Indo-Canadian Voice. “I’m very proud that my motion was supported by all my council colleagues. This decision is a good first step to guarantee the public’s safety and security, while maintaining fairness — that is our priority right now.” 

According to councillors, ride-sharing companies like Uber have presented challenges for consumers and companies in Canada. There are also issues of legality, as many of these drivers are not licensed under the cities’ mobile licensing bylaws and as such are operating contrary to their requirements. 

Other cities in Canada are having similar conversations about the ride-sharing problem. Mississauga city council voted unanimously in early March to suspend Uber's operations in the city. 

“Innovation, technology and growth are driving competition in an established industry that has a long history of providing quality and reliable service,” said Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie. “The debate about how to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNC) is not going away and we need to get it right.” 

The city will be seeking feedback from all stakeholders — the taxi and limousine industry, companies like Uber, as well as consumers — in reviewing the bylaws and regulations around ride-shares. 

Students stand in solidarity with northern India   

As caste violence continues to occur in the north Indian state of Haryana, Canadians are speaking out against fighting that has seen more than a dozen people killed. 

On Mar. 2, students, faculty, and staff from the University of British Columbia (UBC) held a rally in solidarity with India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where, as one student wrote, JNU students “are now facing deadly onslaught of the state – its entire students’ union and leftist leadership booked under the draconian sedition charges.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The violence has also affected non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in Canada ...[/quote]

According to The Indo-Canadian Voice, “Hundreds of universities, public intellectuals, human rights [organizations] from all over the world have raised their voice in support of the JNU students and teachers.” 

The violence has also affected non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in Canada, who fear it will impact investment in the state. 

In a statement reprinted in The Indo-Canadian Voice, the Overseas Association of Haryanvis in Canada said, “We, the NRIs of Haryana origin, would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters to support centuries-old brotherhood among 36 biradaris in the larger interest of Haryana and the nation.” 

The organization further stated that the agitation has not helped the common man of the state. On the contrary, the statement said it “will create more unemployment and increase poverty in an otherwise prosperous state.” 

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by Florence Hwang in Regina

With the current influx of refugees coming to Canada, academic researchers are studying immigrants’ resiliency — their ability to overcome hurdles and challenges — so that they can help future immigrants adapt to their new environment.

Daniel Kikulwe is an associate professor at the University of Regina in the Social Work department. He and assistant professor Donalda Halabuza are working on a study about what factors help immigrants make the transition to Canadian life — specifically in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Similar studies have been conducted in other provinces, like Alberta and Ontario, but none in Saskatchewan.

“I think it’s really important because since 2007, at least according to the statistics that we’re looking at, there’s been an increase in the number of newcomer families coming to Saskatchewan, so that might give [us] some level of awareness of what helps people through that transition,” says Kikulwe, who originally is from Uganda.

Implications of the research

The researchers will study immigrants who have been living in Regina for at least five years, so they say they won’t include the most recent wave of refugees in their considerations. 

The study will look at 20 individuals and examine a range of factors for adjustment, such as food, weather, school registration and access to health services.

Kikulwe hopes the study will be completed within the year. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"There’s been an increase in the number of newcomer families coming to Saskatchewan."[/quote]

“We are waiting for ethics approval to proceed to the next stage of gathering data or interviewing the heads of the households of refugee families who have been settled in Regina for at least five years,” says Donalda Halabuza, who is the principal researcher of this study.

The study will look at a combination of immigrants from different countries and backgrounds with the intention of being able to apply the current research to future immigration and refugee situations. 

“That will give us a good understanding of different experiences,” Kikulwe says.

Kikulwe is particularly interested in civil countries where there is high incidence of violence and from where Canada might accept future refugees. “It could be from one of those countries that we’ll be looking at, for example, Rwanda because of the war, or Sudan,” he says.

Need for resettlement services

The topic of immigrant resilience and the need for resettlement services is of growing interest to many Canadian researchers.

Bruce Newbold, professor and director of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster, recently wrote an article looking at the resilience of immigrant women in Hamilton. The paper, which he worked on with two of his students, Karen Chung and Ellie Hong, was titled “Resilience Among Single Adult Female Refugees in Hamilton, Ontario".

Newbold began his research to discover whether immigrant women were particularly vulnerable or more vulnerable than other segments within the population. 

“How are they coping? How are they doing? Are they just as resilient but using a different set of support mechanisms or are they falling through the cracks?” asks Newbold.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“That will give us a good understanding of different experiences."[/quote]

The study found that all participants were dependent on sources of support such as NGOs and the government when adjusting to life in Canada. Personal characteristics such as their resourcefulness, determination and strength also played a role in their resettlement.

Because of these findings, Newbold has been working with the City of Hamilton to make resources available to new arrivals and service providers, such as by translating materials to make them more accessible.

“Timing is critical. There’s so much going on in the early days when people first arrive. In part, we see some of that discussion around the arrivals of the Syrians in Canada,” he says. 

Because immigrants require so many services — whether it be finding a job or getting a referral to health or mental health resources — when integrating into Canadian society, Newbold thinks a one-stop-shop would best serve all immigrants.

Current assistance in Saskatchewan

One settlement agency that is attempting to offer many services to newcomers is the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council (MJMC).

Stefanie Palmer, executive director with MJMC, says her organization offers services for immigrants ranging from picking them up from the airport, to finding accommodations for them, to setting them up with language services, to helping them adjust to Canadian culture and society. 

“We work on a settlement plan with them. So if they have young children, we try to set them up with different programming throughout the community. Our biggest goal is community integration,” Palmer says.

Other organizations like the Regina Immigrant Women’s Centre (RIWC) offer various services under one roof, but with special accommodations for women, such as child-minding, so they can attend English classes, pre-employment programs or employment counselling.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Our biggest goal is community integration."[/quote]

While there are government organizations set up to help new immigrants settle in, it seems that they aren’t able to fill all the needs of new immigrants, notes Newbold. In his research, he has found that community organizations have been filling that gap. 

While Newbold cited many instances of successful integration in Canada, he says not everyone will be resilient like the subjects interviewed for his study. 

“Not everyone is going to have that personal strength. In part, it allowed us to say, ‘How can we try to ensure the resiliency and the reception, to make sure it’s a positive reception? What can we strengthen?’ We can think about what groups we want to work with or what [we] should be saying to groups [and] service providers,” he says.

Kikulwe hopes this study will give hope to newcomers who are worried about establishing a life in Canada. 

“There’s a silver lining,” he says.

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Thursday, 03 March 2016 23:54

Canada Seeks "The Perfect Immigrants"

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by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

As the federal government prepares to table its 2016 immigration targets by March 9, Immigration Minister John McCallum has indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students.

Terming foreign students as “the perfect immigrants,” McCallum said the previous Conservative government took the wrong direction when it took away the 50 per cent residency time credit for them and other temporary residents when applying to become permanent residents.

He said this in a one-on-one conversation with Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director, Global Diversity Exchange, at the 2016 Cities of Migration conference in Toronto on Wednesday. The forum was held in the lead up to the 18th National Metropolis Conference that opened today.

"It was the dumbest thing to do because if there's any group who would become good Canadians, it's them. They're educated, they know this country, they speak English or French. So why punch them in the nose when we're trying to attract them here in competition with other countries?"

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[W]hy punch them in the nose when we're trying to attract them here in competition with other countries?"[/quote]

Family reunification

McCallum said the Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, was also being reviewed. The Liberal party election platform had proposed that candidates with siblings in Canada should be granted additional points under the system.

McCallum said now that his party's election promise on the Syrian refugees has been met, streamlining his department would be his new top priority.

This would include reducing the processing times for people already in the immigration system.

“We have learnt a lot from fast-tracking the Syrians in how inefficiencies can be eliminated,” the minister said. "I am ashamed that we, a country who view ourselves as being open to newcomers, should take two years to bring together husband and wife and even longer to bring in parents and grandparents."

He said some processes are not necessary and his government would be applying risk management principles to bring in families quicker. “This is how we want to bring about ‘real change’ without increasing risks to Canadians.” But he cautioned that the changes to reduce processing delays are not going to happen overnight.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[W]e only have a certain capacity to increase our numbers. And we need to balance the competing demands.”[/quote]

Multi-year immigration plan

Asked by Omidvar on why the federal government goes about setting annual immigration targets instead of taking a more long-term view, McCallum said he would soon present a multi-year plan.

He said the government will be announcing the 2016 immigration levels plan in Parliament next week.

“While we would need a bigger pie to accommodate all the demands, we only have a certain capacity to increase our numbers. And we need to balance the competing demands.”

He listed them as:

  • The need to take in more refugees
  • Provincial governments wanting more economy class immigrants
  • Bringing in more under the Family Class

Last year’s immigration levels plan had made a provision for a maximum of 285,000 immigrants. That pie was to be divided among 186,700 economic immigrants, 68,000 family class immigrants and 30,200 from the humanitarian stream.

Record intake of immigrants likely

In contrast, 19,000 Syrian refugees have already been resettled in the first two months of 2016 and the Liberals have pledged to resettle another 10,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees by year end.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he Justin Trudeau government would be the first to admit more than 300,000 new immigrants in one year since 1913.[/quote]

And if McCallum makes true his commitment to increase the intake by even 15,000, the Justin Trudeau government would be the first to admit more than 300,000 new immigrants in one year since 1913.

On whether the focus on Syrian refugees would lead to cutbacks to other refugees and immigration streams and also welfare programs, McCallum said Canada would still accept refugees at the same pace from other parts of the world, but the rush to get Syrians into the country was both warranted and the right thing to do.

“I make no apologies to anybody. The Syrian crisis was the worst such crisis the world has faced in a decade and most Canadians agree with that. And we can always do more than one thing at once.”

Although privately sponsored refugees from Syria have to start paying their own airfare now that government-organized flights out of the Middle East have ceased, McCallum said the government is now considering paying the travel costs of all refugees Canada resettles in the future.

The federal government has been providing refugees loans to help them pay for required medical exams and travelling to Canada for decades. McCallum said that cancelling the loans is one of the options the Liberals are considering ahead of their first budget on Mar. 22.

"We were covering the travel costs for privately sponsored refugees [from Nov. 4 to Feb. 29] because most of them came on planes leased by the government,” McCallum said.

Canadians who sponsored Syrian refugees who arrived before Nov. 4 have complained that the Liberal government created a two-tier system when it decided to waive the travel costs for privately sponsored refugees who arrived in Canada after the Liberals were sworn into power on that date.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2016 23:36

Overhaul Black History Month, Community Says

Written by

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: the Black community reflects on the shortcomings of Black History Month; groups react to the passing of a federal motion denouncing sanctions against Israel; and migrants ask for amnesty after years without status.

Black History Month needs an overhaul, community says

Members of Canada’s Black community say Black History Month fails to educate Canadians about slavery and mobilize them to be more active against discrimination.

At the 15th Black History Month concert in Brampton, Ontario on Feb. 20, Justice Donald McLeod highlighted problems that the Black community faces and needs to address with more vigilance.

As reported by Pride, McLeod noted that Blacks earn approximately 76 cents for every dollar earned by a white worker; that Blacks account for ten per cent of inmates in Canadian prisons but only three per cent of the population; and that Black boys drop out of high school at a rate of 40 per cent.

“We have to do our best to make sure that Black History Month is not just lived out in the 29 days, but it’s actually lived out in the whole year so that our kids will realize that what we expect is that they stand head and shoulders above everybody else,” he said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It was radical, revolutionary, loud."[/quote]

On Feb. 18, the Government of Ontario passed legislation to formally recognize February as Black History Month. 

“People in our communities have recommended that February be a celebration of ‘Black Liberation’ or ‘African Liberation,’ rather than ‘Black History,’” Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole wrote on the same day.

Black History Month doesn’t acknowledge how Black people escaping slavery in the United States faced racism in Canada and how the community continues to experience discrimination, Cole noted.

“There’s a tendency to focus on the quiet resilience of Dr. Martin Luther King and others like him, but the struggles of Civil Rights activists were not quiet,” said George Randolph, founder of Randolph Academy of the Performing Arts

“It was radical, revolutionary, loud — those are the voices I’d like to see us focus more on.” 

Randolph is one of three Black artists who shared their impressions of Black History Month with the Caribbean Camera.

Liberals criticized for condemning Israel sanctions movement

Canada’s Liberal Party is garnering praise as well as criticism for supporting a Conservative motion to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

As the Canadian Jewish News reports, the motion passed on Feb. 22 by a 229–51 vote. The New Democratic Party voted against the motion, as did the Bloc Québécois and three Liberal Members of Parliament (MPs). Several Liberal MPs did not vote.

The BDS movement is a global campaign that seeks boycotts, divestment and sanctions against “Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.”

According to the Conservative motion, BDS “promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The New Democratic Party voted against the motion, as did the Bloc Québécois.[/quote]

“BDS is a non-violent campaign that supports proven methods of conscientious objection to encourage Israel to respect international law,” wrote the National Council on Canada Arab Relations (NCCAR) in a press release following the vote. It notes that Canadians have supported past BDS movements, notably against South African apartheid. 

“At its core, the vote on the anti-BDS motion would go against the spirit of Freedom of Speech, a right enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” stated the NCCAR.

Palestine News Network reported that, on the same day of the vote, members of the Student Society of McGill University, “which has one of the highest Jewish populations of any university in Canada,” passed a motion in support of BDS. 

The motion asks McGill University to divest from “profiting from violations of Palestinian human rights.” According to the Montreal Gazette, McGill administration said that the motion does not oblige the university to change its policies.

Members of the McGill BDS Action Network told the Gazette that the vote demonstrates that the students do not agree with the government’s stance.

Migrants demand same amnesty given to Syrian refugees

As the Trudeau government reaches its goal of welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada this week, some are calling on the government to extend the same amnesty to migrants who have been without status in Canada for years.

In an open letter published in Canadian Immigrant, Odhiambo Agunga commended the government for its compassion towards Syrian refugees, but noted that other refugees like himself have been struggling to get by without status, their claims “either forgotten or ignored.” 

The letter blames much of the backlog on the former Conservative government, who Agunga said reduced refugees to second-class humans.

In another op-ed published in the Toronto Star, two psychiatrists called on the government to stop detaining migrants without charges. 

“At a time when Canadians have opened up their arms to support and protect Syrian families, we cannot ignore the practices that are taking place behind closed bars, out of sight of the generous welcomes and flashing cameras,” wrote Dr. Michaela Beder and Dr. Rachel Kronick.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Agunga says migrant claims have largely been “either forgotten or ignored.”[/quote]

They said that detention for administrative purposes can lead adults to develop psychiatric problems such depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

“We have watched previously healthy children deteriorate: in one study, most children had trouble sleeping, some stopped speaking, many wouldn’t eat, others developed behavioural problems, separation anxiety and exhibited signs of trauma,” they wrote.

Agunga pointed out that getting medical treatment without status is expensive: “No hospital or any medical institution in Canada will admit us as patients without down payment even if we are sick and dying yet we all pay taxes which covers these health care services.” 

The Liberal government announced on Feb. 18 that it would restore health-care coverage for all refugees and asylum claimants to pre-2012 levels in April, as reported by the Toronto Star

Agunga wrote that migrants also need to be given amnesty to go to school, obtain driver’s licenses, get credit cards, vote “and more so to be able to reunite with our beloved families scattered all over the world.”

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Wednesday, 24 February 2016 21:55

"Diversity Without Inclusion Has No Meaning"

Written by

by Shan Qiao in Toronto

Employers and participants at the 2016 Diversity@Work Conference learned that creating diverse workplaces is about more than just hiring more newcomers.

“Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential,” said keynote speaker Zanita DiSalle, who is Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) regional vice president for West Brampton.

She explained that diversity reaches should include all those traditionally “excluded” groups such as women, visible minorities, LGBT, aboriginal and indigenous people, persons with disabilities and millennials.

“Diversity without inclusion has no meaning. Without inclusive practice, there is no respect to people’s difference,” DiSalle continues. 

The role of the conference

About 150 participants, including job seekers, employers, human resources professionals, diversity consultants, lawyers and students attended the conference, held on Feb. 19 at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.

The conference organizer and executive director of Skills for Change, Surranna Sandy, expressed how important she feels the conference, now in its seventh year, is.

“We want employers to particularly understand the value and the role immigrants can play to make their businesses very successful. We look at different things, for example, how diversity helps you [business] make more money, helps you gain more customers, helps you retain your staff. This year, we look at the future for diversity, what strategies and tools you need to have,” Sandy added. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported."[/quote]

One speaker, filmmaker Ian Sun, explored how the technological revolution changed workplace diversity. Ontario Human Rights Commission’s chief commissioner Renu Mandhane was also present to discuss perspectives on human rights and diversity. 

Workshops during the day focused on different approaches to diversity and inclusion, such as how to create inclusive workspaces; understanding and minimizing unconscious bias in hiring; the gender identity and expression toolkit to create authentic workplaces; and best practices for workspaces with multiple generations. 

Experiences of diversity and inclusion

In her keynote, DiSalle explained that when she came from Jamaica to start her new life in Canada, she immediately realized the difference between her and her classmates after dressing in her traditional bandana shirt to go to kindergarten.

“I heard one lovely little girl tell her friend, ‘Don’t touch her, or you will become brown,’” she said. “Do we have diversity? Yes. Is it inclusive? No.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Do we have diversity? Yes. Is it inclusive? No.”[/quote]

To further illustrate how our physical differences are only skin-deep, DiSalle played a video created by the Ad Council titled “Love Has No Labels”. It features people on the street watching as pairs of skeletons on a screen talk, kiss and hug. 

When the pairs come out from behind the screen, it’s revealed that among the skeleton pairings are are same-sex couples, interracial couples, seniors and people with disabilities. This is meant to demonstrate that love takes many forms, but at its core, it looks the same.

Diversity in the workplace

Part of the day’s discussion addressed whether applicants’ foreign-sounding names, accents and credentials could be barriers during the interview process. 

Employers also discussed how they could help newcomers develop social and language skills in the workplace so that they can fully integrate into the organization.

When asked about how to foster diversity while hiring to fit job requirements, DiSalle answered: “For our hiring process, we found objectivity is essential rather than subjectivity.

“Because [of] this objective process we have, we ensure that we have different stages of interview process that are based on objective measures and objective questions. Depending on how people do in different stages, we determine whether or not they move to the next stage.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Employers also discussed how they could help newcomers develop social and language skills in the workplace.[/quote]

While affirmative action in job and university recruitment continues to be a subject of debate, DiSalle stressed that an objective approach to hiring aims to recognize all the skills employees bring to the company.

“Inclusion is looking at a person as a whole — not just their education, physical characteristics, cultural background or work experience, but how all the elements work together, ” said DiSalle.

To help businesses in Canada integrate newcomers into their workplaces, RBC partners with organizations like Maytree Foundation to provide online tools and resources on sites like Hire Immigrants.

Including the millennial generation

The conference also heard from young people who are eager to participate in the job market.

“We just started a diversity consulting firm, specifically for attention of the millennials and diversity in workplace,” said Shanthiya Baheerathan, a fellow at Studio Y experimental consulting firm at MaRS Discovery District, Canada’s largest innovation hub located in downtown Toronto. 

In our education and workplace system, we start to realize that diversity is representation, rather than inclusion, “ Shanthiya explained.

She explained that representation is just having people in the room, as opposed to having people in the room who are meaningfully involved in the workplace. 

“This is not just race and gender or ability. It's a wide range of things, which includes age, especially as 20 per cent of the population and 40 per cent of the workforce will become the representative of the millennials.” 

“I think workplaces should really move towards to making themselves more inclusive,” she concluded. 

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New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved