I had planned on writing about the many proposed legislative changes before our federal and provincial parliaments this month. But over this past weekend it was brought home to me that as a sector we are in a time of flux. We are witnessing many changes in leadership as sector leaders age, retire or reduce hours; as many of our colleagues (primarily women) face grave illness- themselves or of family members.
Executive Director's Message
Often when I find myself the lone African-Canadian woman in overflowing meeting rooms I mumble to myself “All the Blacks are men, all the women are White, but some of us are brave… a take-off on the title of a book by African-American feminist writer Gloria T. Hull.
There are so many fires to fight on the policy front that it's difficult to decide where one's energy should be focused. On the national scene we continue to witness the activism of a government determined to remake Canada's immigration, refugee determination and citizenship programs to suit its ideology.
I had planned a happy New Year message, filled with good thoughts and wishes for the many of us who are advocates for a just and equitable Ontario and Canada. And while I'm sending those wishes that everything that is good and positive will come our way; that the lives of those who are in distress will be made easier and that the hearts and minds of those who make decisions that have impact on our lives will be guided by fairness and good conscience, my focus in this message has changed due to two emails that I received in the dying days of 2013 and the opening days of 2014.
Canada's immigrant and refugee-serving sector is heading to Ottawa next week (November 13-15) for the first National Settlement and Integration conference in a decade. The last national gathering was held in Calgary in 2003. What a difference a decade has made, yet how things have stayed the same.
I have written on this topic before in this space and I've touched on aspects of it in the many speeches that I have given. And over the past two to three years there has been at least one workshop or seminar on a similar topic at the annual OCASI's Executive Directors' Forum or Professional Development Conferences. Given the currency of the topic, I feel it's worth re-airing.
On July 15, 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) launched its new policy Removing Canadian Experience as a Barrier to Employment. The policy aims to clarify the existing code grounds where discrimination is prohibited in employment. The Commission boldly states in the policy that requiring Canadian experience as a condition of employment is discriminatory on its face and the onus is on employers to prove that there is a legitimate and necessary reason for such a requirement. This is significant.
A couple of weeks ago, OCASI hosted a meeting of colleagues from across the country. The one thing they all had in common is a strong belief that the sector is changing and as sector leaders they needed to be ahead of the curve, to influence, since we can't control the changes that are taking place. It was quite a collection of folks. From almost every province, they primarily came from immigrant and refugee serving agencies but also from umbrella organizations like OCASI and from universities.