Diversity, equity, inclusiveness and intersectionality were some of the major topics discussed at The Inclusion Project, an inaugural event that brought community members and stakeholders together at Royal Roads University on Saturday.
The event drew a large crowd – with everyone from local politicians to students at the university – and had them talking together about challenges faced by newcomers like immigrants, refugees and international students.
“This is a forum for stakeholders across public and private sectors, post-secondary, civil society, business and government to come together and talk about things around diversity, equity and inclusiveness,” said Ruth Mojeed, organizer of the event. “It’s about what that looks like to us, what are some of the challenges we have around those things and what is the way forward.”
Speakers such as Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, Sangeeta Subramanian of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC, Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean and Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society executive director David Lau attended the event and shared some of their perspectives and thoughts on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.
City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was the keynote speaker at the event and drew upon her experiences on council and in the city during her speech.
“Between 2011 and 2016, here in our region, we saw a 38 per cent increase of people from racialized minority backgrounds,” Helps said. “That’s significant, it’s awesome and it also is going to take some work to make sure that we are really truly inclusive and welcoming.”
Helps talked about the importance of reconciliation that is done in an Indigenous-informed way. She noted that reconciliation is an important step in being able to properly welcome newcomers to the land as well.
“We’ve patted ourselves on the back a little this morning about how awesome Canada is, which it is of course,” Helps said. “But this region and this country are still racist, there is still discrimination and we’re not as progressive as we think we are. I think it’s really important for the mayor to say that so I’m saying that.”
“If we’re going to have real reconciliation here it has to be done in an Indigenous-informed way,” says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.— Shalu Mehta (@ShaluMehta32) March 30, 2019
Mojeed, who moved to Canada close to four years ago from Nigeria, said coming here to study at Royal Roads University was her first introduction to what it means to be in a global context. She received her master’s in Intercultural and International Communication from the university.
“As a newcomer you face lots of challenges…making that decision to move from one side of the world to another takes a lot,” Mojeed said. “You have to look for ways to adjust and to make it work…that’s been my story and it has also been the stories of many other people who are just looking for the right employment opportunity, looking to be included in communities and all of that.”
Mojeed said the end goal for the event is for people to take responsibility for the critical issues that are discussed throughout the day.
“It’s so people can find ways to come together and collaborate,” Mojeed said. “It’s to have solid working groups come out of this and have people say ‘we’re backing this up and supporting this.’”