Diversity is in my blood — literally. Born of a mother whose ancestors came from Africa and of a father whose ancestors came from India, I feel privileged to be so personally acquainted with the issue. Through my parents’ 45 years (and counting) of togetherness, I have witnessed that different cultures can come together harmoniously and that life is, in fact, richer, more interesting and more beautiful because of the mixture.
It was not only at home that diversity was an integral part of my life.
I grew up in Trinidad, an island of under two million souls, who can trace their origins back to almost every corner of the planet. “Here every creed and race finds an equal place,” each citizen affirms in singing Trinidad’s national anthem. And although my homeland is not perfect, it has achieved a remarkable level of integration and harmony, which so impressed South African antiapartheid fighter Archbishop Desmond Tutu that he dubbed us a “rainbow country”.
Even with that background, when I came to Canada, diversity was nowhere on my agenda. But as fate would have it, it was a subject I could not ignore.
Expanding my perspectives on diversity
Canada had held out a promise as a land where I could advance my writing career. It lived up to that promise, and enabled me to set out on a cross-country book promotion tour. As I travelled across this vast, rich and beautiful land, I had the opportunity to speak with literally thousands of people, many of them immigrants. Along the way, I also met people with disabilities and members of Aboriginal communities.
The picture that emerged from their stories was rather disturbing.
For many, life in Canada was marked by dashed hopes, daily humiliation and, in some cases, near destitution.
It’s one thing to be aware on a purely intellectual level that fellow Canadians who come from certain backgrounds face tremendous hardships. It’s quite another to actually listen to their frustration at a system that seems indifferent to their potential, that seems to say they are not worthy.
Although I belong to the demographic, I had been one of the fortunate ones. But why had it been so for me? And what could be done — and more specifically, what could I do — to help those who are just as deserving of the opportunity to make their contribution to society?
It was a question I set out to explore the next year as I embarked on a more extensive book tour.
The picture that emerged, in the end, was encouraging.
Working to make Canada a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
I feel proud as a Canadian to say much is being done, by official authorities, by corporate Canada and by traditionally underrepresented groups and individuals to bring about a more inclusive society.
And this is as it should be. It takes a concerted effort by all of us to bring into being a world where diversity is embraced and people of every background live in harmony.
The DiversityCanada Foundation was born to play a part in making that vision a reality.
Our discussions with Canadians on both sides of the equation pointed to the formula for success in diversity at work. Jobseekers must not only be qualified, but also need to be equipped with specific skills required for jobsearch and on-the-job success. Employers need to not only state they support diversity, but to actively invite traditionally under-represented groups to join their team and implement policies to make them feel welcome.
This handbook is one of the resources we offer to bring together diverse job seekers and employers who value diversity. Another important resource is our website, which you can visit at http://DiversityCanada.com. There, you will find more career development tips, multimedia and interactive tools, information on companies seeking to diversify, and most crucially for jobseekers, actual job offers.
Canada is changing, opportunities are opening up and it is those who adapt today who will reap the greatest rewards. Count yourself among them.
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