By SUNIL RAO
“Half-breeds!” he spat. “A buncha’ half-breeds! That’s all you are!”
The Canadians were being loudly berated by another Canadian, in broad daylight, in a public square.
Shocking? It gets worse — especially when one realizes it happened right now, in this day and age.
Relating the incident to a hall full of people in Mississauga last week Richard Cuddy, president of the Credit River Metis Council, which functions under The Metis Nation of Ontario, observed: “It happened just seven months ago. And sadly, incidents like these still happen.
“And it is incidents like these that necessitate initiatives like this Peel Charter,” Cuddy told the 100-plus strong gathering.
The incident touched a nerve among all present, who had come together to help launch and embrace “Canada’s first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Charter” launched by the Region of Peel. They broke into spontaneous applause as event co-chairs Varsha Naik and Aamna Ashraf unveiled the Charter, which seeks to promote equity and fairness among all organizations, public and private, operating in Peel.
Newcomer service agencies Peel Newcomer Strategy Group (PNSG) and The Regional Diversity Roundtable (RDR) came together to jointly create and launch the Charter.
The several community and organization captains present on the occasion unanimously embraced the Charter and pledged to institute diversity and inclusion within their own organizations — even as they all agreed the time for such a document had come.
With diversity exploding in Peel — which as per several recent surveys and media reports is facing growing challenges surrounding the availability of jobs and chronic underemployment within our professional newcomer communities — the Charter couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Embracing the Charter emphasizes commitment to promote inclusivity and equitability,” said Ashraf, who is also executive director at the PNSG.
Added Naik, who is board chair at the RDR: “The Charter and its supporting document are imperfect — but it’s a living document that will continue to define us collectively.
“Today, we’re creating History!” she declared.
Significantly, the launch date of April 18 was also chosen with an eye on History.
As Naik explained, “Canada’s Charter on Rights on Freedoms was launched on April 17. We chose April 18 to launch the Peel Charter to show we’re following in its footsteps.”
The initiative took less than four months: from conception, through execution, through to project launch — which must be some kind of record. Even with the best of intentions, several projects of this nature keep getting further and further stretched, until several just finally fall through the cracks to die a stillborn death.
Both PNSG and the RDR are projecting it as Canada’s first-ever diversity and inclusion charter that aims to foster inclusiveness and equity in the region.
Developed through extensive community consultation and collaboration (full disclosure: this writer attended some of the meetings, initially as a volunteer, although subsequently it was only to cover the events for this publication), the Charter’s vision is to help forge an inclusive Peel Region that values, respects and embraces diversity and equity so that everyone can achieve their full potential.
“We are excited to see that the Peel community is working together to create equal opportunities for all so that everyone can fully participate and contribute to their full human potential,” said Ashraf.
“I believe it is the commitment and implementation of the charter that will bring change to how we understand and serve our community,” she said.
“I commend Peel for its commitment to the important principles of respect, diversity and inclusion,” said Michael Coteau, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (see Q&A alongside).
“Ontario’s Immigration Strategy aims to attract highly skilled newcomers and their families to the province and to help grow a globally-connected economy. Thank you for doing your part to make them feel welcome,” Coteau added.
Said Naik: “The Diversity and Inclusion Charter for Peel will positively impact all its residents and ensure that the three cities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga remain accessible, vital and thriving communities. By embracing diversity our region will remain at the forefront of change locally and benefit globally.
“The Regional Diversity Roundtable is honoured to have been a part of this collaborative and innovative journey in creating and launching of the Charter,” Naik added.
The Diversity and Inclusion Charter of Peel is accompanied by guidelines to help individuals, organizations and communities implement Charter commitments.
This project is funded by the Ontario’s Community Builders program of the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. The Regional Roundtable is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
What each of us can do
The architects of the Charter are urging all organizations to firstly sign on to the Charter; endorsements can be done online at www.regionaldiversityroundtable.org.
Concurrently, everyone is being challenged and to embrace and incorporate its principles within their own organizations and places of work.
That’s Phase I.
Beyond that, as Naik said, this “living document” could serve as a blueprint for other regions across Ontario — and, indeed, across all of our increasingly diverse and multicultural Canada — to adopt and embrace as their own.
And the long-term plan is to ensure no one is left behind.
PNSG is a community collaborative designed to enhance the social and economic inclusion of immigrants to the Peel community. Guided by a Central Planning Table, PNSG is comprised of key stakeholders representing all tiers of government as well as business, non-profit, health and education sectors. PNSG is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Region of Peel and United Way of Peel Region.
For details visit www.peelnewcomer.org.
The Regional Diversity Roundtable (of Peel) is a charitable not-for-profit committed to being a leader in supporting organizations and institutions to be diverse and equitable in order to provide services that are fair, inclusive and culturally appropriate. The Regional Diversity Roundtable is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
For details visit www.regionaldiversityroundtable.org.
Diversity and Inclusion Charter of Peel
The Charter says in its Vision statement:
An inclusive Peel Region that values, respects and embraces diversity and equity so that everyone can achieve their full potential.
Individuals and organizations endorsing the Charter commit to:
• Integrating the values of equity and inclusion into personal lives, work, relationships and participation as residents;
• Supporting vibrant neighbourhoods where diverse people come together as communities;
• Ensuring equitable and inclusive behaviours, practices, policies, with regular review;
• Enabling full participation and engagement by all through equitable access to information, services, opportunities;
• Providing ongoing learning that facilitates equity and inclusion at individual, organizational and community levels;
• Creating safer spaces that foster mutual understanding, respect and growth;
• Supporting inclusive leaders and change champions;
• Dedicating resources, including people, time and/or money, to equity and inclusion;
• Building transparent and accountable relationships and systems;
• Partnering and collaborating to support and build equity and inclusion;
• Recognizing individuals and organizations implementing best practices in equity and inclusion; and
• Recognizing and celebrating Peel Region’s rich diversity.
To endorse the Charter, and for more details, visit www.regionaldiversityroundtable.org.
By SUNIL RAO