Ethnicity, Race, Religion–and Other Taboo Topics

This year 2011, is not only the 60th anniversary of March of Dimes in Canada, and the 30th anniversary of my being at the helm of March of Dimes, but also the International Year of People of African Descent, as proclaimed by the United Nations. Have you heard of it?

I had not, until a thoughtful employee sent me the information, gained from another community agency. So, I have been thinking about what that means to me, to my organization and to the society at large. Why was this year designated as such?

The reality is that people of African descent and people of colour in our society, and all over the world, have experienced racism, discrimination, colonialism, bigotry, and slavery, and according to UN data, are still too often represented in poverty statistics, unemployment, under housing, under education etc. This has huge implications for all of us, service providers, citizens, caregivers.

Fortunately, Canada is one of the most multicultural nations and Toronto is the most ethnically and racially diverse cities in the world, and we both benefit from this and attempt to meet the challenges that this reality creates. As a not for profit organization, we must ensure that our employees and volunteers reflect the community, that we can reach out to the broader community with services that are appropriate and culturally sensitive, while meeting all of the requirements and expectations of Canadian society. We face challenges related to language and culture. As a charity serving the disability community, we must demonstrate our commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities.

March of Dimes takes pride in being an employment equity employer, and has tracked the backgrounds of employees for almost three decades. Our policies, training and code of conduct specifically address issues of bilingualism, multiculturalism, anti-racism and anti-harassment, dating back to the early 1980s. Our employees represent the diverse community whether by gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability. At our head office in Toronto, over 40 languages are spoken. Organization-wide, we undoubtedly have a far greater capacity to reach out to the diversity of communities.

A visit to any of our programs shows all Canadians, those long established in the country and new immigrants, old and young, accessing our services. I look forward to celebrating this International Year in the Canadian spirit of equality and humanity for all people.

About modcpresident
I grew up in Calgary, where I completed a BA at the University of Calgary, then travelled and taught in Kenya and the Canadian Arctic during the heyday of Trudeaumania, hippie travel and social experimentation. I settled in Vancouver to complete a Master of Social Work degree at the University of British Columbia, and stayed another 8 years. After graduating I was a Social Planner and eventually became the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Ontario March of Dimes recruited me in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons and the 30th anniversary of the agency. It has grown from a budget of $5m in '81 to $100m in 2010. Services have expanded drafmatically. We incorporated a non profit housing corporation in 1992 and a national charity in 2001, and since 2006 the latter has operated as March of Dimes Canada. We own and operate several properties that provide accommodation and independent living services to 77 people in 4 municipalities and will add another property this year. Two other exciting non profit entities have been incorporated in my 30 years (yes, it has been 30 years!) and we expect to hold our first fundraiser in the US this year and to initiate our first service south of the border also. My role as President and CEO continues to be that of creating a vision, fulfilling the mission and developing strategic plans to meet an increasing demand for services from people with disabilities and their caregivers. This is achieved through direct service, advocacy and peer programs. On a personal note, I live with my 17 year old daughter and two cats, and enjoy their company a lot. My two adult sons are doing interesting exploration in their own lives and I am intrigued with how they are progressing. In my spare time, I have various volunteer roles on several non profit boards and committees, and enjoy creating programs for building awareness of diversity and disability. I think it has become true for me that youth is, while not "wasted on the young," something that I appreciate more with age. Adventures are physically more challenging for me now, so they have to occur in new dimensions.

2 Responses to Ethnicity, Race, Religion–and Other Taboo Topics

  1. zlokta says:

    That is interesting material. I will also look up something
    of the similar interests.

  2. Alan Phillips says:

    I hate political correctness. It is merely lying. Just say what you think ! Get it out in the open ! We can discuss anything. Yes, anything. You don’t have to use words that are acceptable(?), just put it out there and we’ll go from there !! We can learn from each other. Prejudice is alive and well and living in Canada. It is just hidden well. We like to use “certain” words that mean the same thing. Oh, but we can’t use that word !! So we use another word that means the same thing ?? Truth, honesty, integrity. These are characteristics that I value. Not the words but, what they represent when put into practise on a day to day basis. Ever see the movie, “Crocadile Dundee” ? In the movie he says we don’t need a “shrink”. We just tell Mick and then it’s out in the open and then there isn’t any problem !! Get it out there. Deal with it. Discuss it. It’s so much better when it’s out in the open instead of hidden. Like the way we like to hide things in our heart. After time transpires, it can manifest itself in terrible ways. Let it out, dirt and all. Love is greater. Please stop with the political correctness. Just say it as it is. I love you.

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