Easing of physical distancing restrictions has begun, and now is the time to start thinking what life will look like post-COVID-19. Things may never be the same as before –and they shouldn’t be.
This is the time to rethink and rebuild a new Canada where everyone has an equitable chance to succeed. A new Canada where all voices are heard in shaping our communities, cities, and country. A new Canada where robust practices ensure our workplaces and decision-making tables are truly reflective of our diverse population.
#InItTogether has become the new anthem, the rallying cry of the Canadian response and Canadian togetherness during COVID-19.
But have we really been ‘in it together’?
Pandemic has spotlighted marginalized/under-served peoples
The pandemic has put a spotlight on the marginalized, under-served, and those with pre-existing vulnerabilities who do not have the tools to weather the economic fallout. It has centred itself on those who are not only vulnerable, but also often essential to keeping our economy functioning through the crisis. It has highlighted the ones who are ready to step in and support the relief efforts, but are unable to do so because we haven’t found a way to recognize their international training and experience.
So are we really ‘in it together’ if our structures prevent individuals from the ability to create economic stability that will equip them to face the next crisis?
Why is it that only during a crisis we suddenly see the need to create a process where foreign-trained doctors can practice? Or consider the working conditions of essential workers and their ability to earn decent wages and job security? What have we done about the persisting digital inequalities that prevent many from timely access to information channels that we all take for granted?
So, how can we harness the intention of #InItTogether post COVID-19, and use it to help us unravel what is holding systemic inequities in place?
COVID-19 has shown us the increasingly complex and symbiotic relationships and the social interdependences in our society. It has underlined that society can only succeed if everyone has the tools and information needed to succeed. And as we turn our attention to rebuilding our economy and considering lessons learned in strengthening the resilience of our society, the process of doing so needs to include the voices of those for whom we are seeking solutions.
Actively promoting diversity and inclusion is essential in the best of times, but especially in times of crises as it allows us to look at issues, impacts, problems and solutions with an intersectional lens.
Can Canada be a world leader?
Effective January 1, 2020, Canada became the first jurisdiction worldwide to require disclosures by federally incorporated public companies regarding policies and practices related to diversity on the boards of directors, as well as within senior management; disclosures that go beyond gender, focusing on Indigenous persons, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. While this requirement is only targeting public corporations governed by the Canada Business Corporation Act, it is a great challenge and opportunity for all employers.
Questions around increasing diversity beyond gender are typically met with comments about how difficult it is. This makes it clear that the systems currently in place are failing, and are not reflective of the collective impact that can be made if we truly mean to embody #InItTogether beyond COVID-19.
As we flatten the curve of COVID-19, and keep the economy going by working remotely or in-person with safe distancing, we can and must find ways to create a workforce and leadership teams that are truly reflective of the cultural mosaic that is Canada.
Though it is not going to happen overnight, it can be accomplished with deliberate planning and action. All employers should play a role in building organizations that are reflective of the populations they serve, whether in their workforce or around decision-making tables. And there are numerous allies ready to support these efforts, including the many non-profits around Canada working to create equitable opportunities for marginalized populations, such as MOSAIC.
The New York Times has called Canada an emerging moral leader in the free world. This is our chance to shine –not only by the actions of our government, but by the actions of us all.
We must be in it together for the long run, and it is only together we advance an inclusive and thriving Canada.
Olga Stachova is the CEO of MOSAIC.
MOSAIC is one of Canada’s largest settlement and employment agencies helping immigrants, refugees and newcomers. MOSAIC enriches communities through services and advocacy, furthering the success and sense of belonging of newcomers and individuals from diverse backgrounds.