Bridging The Divide


Toronto / January 2024

2024 arrived amid the echoes of war for land and the richness it holds, in the various diasporas here in Ontario and across the country. From Palestine (Gaza) to Sudan; and Congo to Ukraine many of our communities here in our cities and towns are engaged in some discussion, debate, protest, anguish and fear for their loved ones caught in the violent power play of capital and its unrelenting greed.

Here in Canada, we are witness to this same power play of capital, as the lands of First Peoples are taken over through force and at times manipulation empowered by colonial laws. The Land back movements of First Peoples here in North America (but in actuality throughout the Americas including the Caribbean) have since the early years of contact fought to retain stewardship over their ancestral lands. Here too violence has erupted as the State has allowed its security forces such as the police to be used by private capital to protect its extractive interests. This is an issue of social justice that as settlers and descendants of forced arrivals (transatlantic slave trade) we must stand in solidarity with, taking our lead from First Peoples. More on this in future blogs this year.

As diasporic communities on various sides of armed conflicts playing out across the oceans, we are seeing and feeling the rising tensions within our cities and towns. The sharp increases in antisemitism, islamophobia and anti-Palestinian discourse and actions is no accident. There are always bad actors, elements in our communities that use sociopolitical times like this to foment unrest. To disrupt the at times uneasy but lasting peace that we’ve cultivated as an increasingly diverse nation of histories, ethnicities, racial identities, languages, cultures and religions gathered here on the lands of Indigenous Peoples.

How do we find the light and hold the many truths that exist at the same time, while calling for accountability from the power brokers? How do we condemn the actions of aggressors and keep the humanity of all involved in a particular conflict at the centre? How do we confront the double standards of decision makers in government, in media in the public sphere in a way that educates, clarifies and seeks solutions?

These are the questions that we must grapple with in these early days of this new year.

The immigrant and refugee serving sector is a microcosm of the world. It is where the victims and the aggressors sometimes find themselves face to face (I prefer cheek to jowl, but euphemisms and all thatJ) in this new land they’ve chosen in their flight from conflict often arriving here in very different ways.

What role do we need to play as leaders, service providers and community actors to ensure that we are building healthy communities?  That the conflicts from across the seas do not percolate and erupt here in ways that take us to a place of no return.

We must identify lessons from the past to inform our actions in the present and to shape the vision of our collective future: Sankofa. And as a sector concerned about social justice, knowing that until the most marginalized amongst us has economic and social freedom, none of us are free, we must embrace the framework of Ubuntu- I am, because you are.

We must be vigilant. We must find the courage to speak up when we see inequality and marginalization and othering of a particular group/community/people. We must be willing to lead with compassion and truth even when truth telling leads to loss of funds or influence or prestige. As leaders, we have a responsibility to disrupt the status quo if this disruption leads to a common good.

This year, I commit to being in solidarity with all who are committed to walking in the truth of social, economic and racial justice.

More in 2024!

On a personal note, I am sending heartfelt gratitude to all who reached out with kind congratulatory messages for my induction as a member in the Order of Canada. It was quite a surprise, but I’m thankful for this platform to advance our work of calling for a transparent and fair immigration system, free of biases. And to specifically call for an antiracism review of our immigration systems - from selection to settlement and integration funding and programming; regularization of status for those who are undocumented; and an end to deportation, starting immediately for anyone who has spent any time in the care of the state.

Thank you for the flowers. My heart is full.

In Solidarity