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What’s in a Sign?

6 Nov

This morning I woke up early and was fortunate to catch the sunrise as I walked along the lakeshore. It’s one of my favourite places. As I walked, I came across this sign. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, but it caught my attention today again, especially since I’ve been thinking a lot about reconciliation.


The first thing that caught my attention today was the graffiti. My first thought, which made me angry: disregard for the sacredness of what the sign stands for. A reminder of the history and legacy of colonization. But then, I considered that maybe it could mean something else – pointing to the hollowness of a sign in a country where we continue disregard Indigenous peoples.


What can a sign like this mean?

It can raise awareness about the people who first walked on this land. It can honour them. It can become a talking point to learn more. It can show a reverence and respect for the path we are on together. It can be a symbol of a forward motion, and positive change.

And it could also just be a sign – a sign that perhaps began with an intention for more. Or maybe not.

Signs like this can be amazing tools to create conversation, dialogue and help to create reconciliation  – and a new story for Canada.But then other things must stand behind them: Knowledge. Awareness. Intention. Willingness. Tangible, real change. A piece of the puzzle, not the only picture.

To me, the sign would mean more if we were doing more with regard to Indigenous rights, and changing our relationships. If that was tangible in this country. As it stands, it’s a sign that suggests to me we think a piece of rock with some writing will cut it. And that makes me angry and sad.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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Reconciliation in Canada

30 Oct

Last week I attended the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Conference – Inclusive Canada, 2017 and Beyond. It was a thought-provoking and intense two days with a strong theme of Indigenous inclusion.

The opening keynote was by Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada. He spoke passionately about reconciliation, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts that touched me the most in this blogpost.

Merriam-Webster defines reconciliation as “the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement.” It’s a noun; but it’s a noun with an action built in. And that action requires us to act.

While Colonization, residential schools, and the Sixties Scoop are hardly disagreements, reconciliation is still a powerful and poignant term to use. The Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada was an important process, and the subsequent report outlines 94 calls to action to move reconciliation forward.

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph talked about the importance of recognizing that there is much we don’t know, and he urged us to listen.

He then offered this (and I believe it was in reference to someone else’s thought, although sadly I have not recorded their name) that “reconciliation can be grand. But maybe it’s about a million other little things ordinary Canadians can do where we live. Maybe that is more profound. Everyone can contribute to reconciliation and transforming the country into something better.”


So, what can we all do to participate in reconciliation?
Some examples include:

– Learning; educate ourselves about the history and legacy of colonization, about Indigenous cultures, and about present conditions on reserves, about Indigenous cultures. For example: read the Truth and Reconciliation reports, and participate in local Indigenous festivals and events that are open to the public (and bring your children so that they learn, and are open from a young age).
– Writing; writing letters to the local newspaper or to our MPs letting them know that these conditions are not acceptable (for example, 25% of First Nations children live in poverty)
– Speaking up. When we see or hear discrimination towards Indigenous peoples, we must speak up and speak out against it.
– Listening; listening to the stories, voices and current concerns of our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
– Discussing; being open to the transforming power of dialogue and of hearing someone else’s truth about what it means to live in this country.
– Be aware; catch and challenge the bias and prejudice (conscious or unconscious) that we may have towards Indigenous people.

No matter what you do in your own way, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph urged everyone to have a “back pocket reconciliation plan” and to “adopt it as a core vale and as a continuous way of living”. That back pocket reconciliation plan is personal. We are meant to carry it with us and demonstrate it through our actions and thoughts every day. And it is meant to inform and change how we see each other, the conversations we have, what we expect from our country, how we create the future together, and the future we create.

He told us that this back pocket reconciliation plan “will change the way you see yourself and the world around you.”

If we are consciously about reconciliation, it will also change this country for the better, and with it the lives of Indigenous peoples – and all Canadians.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

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Happy New Year!

3 Oct

Happy New Year!

If you’re Jewish, you know exactly what I’m talking about – Rosh Hashanah began last night at sundown. “Shanah Tovah!”

If you’re not Jewish, or don’t have any close friends (or family) who are Jewish, it’s possible that you had no idea. Or, like me, no idea until yesterday.

Which is amazing, if you think about it, because a new year’s celebration is a big deal.
But it happens all the time to holidays that are not celebrated by the dominant culture:

If you are Jewish, you likely know about Christmas and Easter…the big and commonly known holidays celebrated in North America. There are others, but you get the idea. If you’re not Jewish, likely you don’t know when Rosh Hashanah is, or Yom Kippur, or Hanukkah.
Because it’s not your holiday.

Notice a little disparity there?

You bet.
That’s because if you’re not in the dominant group, you have to know the dominant culture to get through the day (and life). But it’s not reciprocal. Because non-dominant culture information is not “necessary” information, and we live in a world that is inequitable.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest holidays in the Hebrew calendar. It is celebrated in the first two days of the Jewish month of Tishrei. And because the Hebrew calendar is Lunar, the dates for holidays such as Rosh Hashanah change every Gregorian calendar year.

(By the way, Rosh Hashanah is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur – so mark your calendar!)

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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An Inclusive Canada?

15 Oct

Not being included, not having a feeling of belonging, or of being welcome can be uncomfortable, lonely, angry, sad (to name a few) – all of which add up to a feeling of separateness.

Depending on who we are, this feeling of not being included (of exclusion) can be familiar or unfamiliar.
If it’s unfamiliar, we can walk through our days with a sense of belonging that we can take for granted.
But if exclusion is a familiar feeling, there can be daily reminders that we don’t belong and are not welcome – looks, comments, actions, not feeling safe, physical altercations, being ignored or left out…etc.

Bullying is used to exclude: to make someone feel alone, unwelcome and ‘less than’. It happens in schools, on the playground, in workplaces, on the transit, on the street – and through the media on a large scale.
Spreading fear of the ‘Other’ is a more insidious form of bullying, which creates a negative stereotype of a group.  “Othering” is a tactic often used to ensure people (populations) follow suit, and participate in the alienation of a person or a group of people. These fear tactics producing an “Us vs Them” mentality have happened throughout history with devastating results (Nazi Germany & Rawanda are two examples) and it is currently happening quite visibly to the Muslim population Canada – whether already living here or as a consideration for entry. They are not the only group experiencing this in Canada, but it’s a current and particularly public example.

If you haven’t yet read the article in the Globe and Mail by Sheema Khan published on October 7 (Fifty years in Canada and now I feel like a second/class citizen) please do.

And then please reflect on the type of country you want to live in, and how your actions contribute: a country that values inclusion and human rights for everyone, or one where those values only apply to some people?

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

Viola Davis’ Emmy for Best Actress

22 Sep

Congratulations Viola!

I shake my head that this is the FIRST time a woman of colour has received this award. I want to ask, what year is this?

But Viola’s speech says it all – the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. And those opportunities, sadly, have been (still are) few and far between. We could insert a number of identities into that sentence and it would also be true.

Here is a clip of her speech from the Guardian.
What I find interesting is the part that is missing – the Harriet Tubman quote that she used at the very beginning of her speech. The beginning!!  It’s what contextualizes the entire speech, and it’s not here on a major media outlet! Perhaps because it shows the inequity that still exists along colour lines in North America (and elsewhere). And it gives us pause to think about the other inequities that also continue to exist. I notice that she has gotten some heat for it….

Here is the Harriet Tubman quote that Viola started with, if you can’t find it:

“In my mind, i see a line. And over that line I see green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white women with their arms outstretched to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”

Powerful, right?

There are still many lines for people to cross: people of colour, women, women of colour, people with disabilities, visible minorities, LGBT folks, the list goes on….. And Viola is right, opportunity is a HUGE reason for not getting to the other side.

I agree. And I would suggest that in order for us to see that lack of opportunity, we have to acknowledge that the line exists, that the playing fields haven’t (and still are not) level, and start to see more:
– see more in people
– see where the gaps are in opportunity, why they are there and how we consciously and unconsciously support them
– and see what we can do to get rid of those gaps so that opportunity once again becomes a word that all people can grasp, rather than it being a word that some people create for others.

Seeing that line would start, in this case, with including the quote in the clip for all to see and hear.

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, workshop facilitator, author, consultant on issues of diversity and inclusion.

Radio Host, Creating Families Radio on

Happy Holidays!

14 Sep

Happy Holidays to those who are celebrating today!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year.
This year, Rosh Hashanah began last night (September 14) at sundown, and continues until tomorrow evening when
Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – begins, ending Wednesday evening.

You can find out more about these Jewish Days of Significance through a quick google search, but I wanted to share with you the most beautiful and moving description I have heard, affirming once again the power of connecting with people and asking questions.

I was speaking with a colleague yesterday, and she explained Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur like this:
“It’s a time to think of repairing the world, helping to put the world back together, and to think outside of ourselves.”

Thank you Jan!

It gave me pause to think about the millions of people fleeing their homes and leaving their lives and family members behind because of conflict while European countries fight about quotas and build fences to keep “them” out, and Canada has only let a trickle in…we could all take some time to think outside of ourselves and consider what we can each do to repair the world.

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, Consultant and Author  on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show host of Creating Families – Fridays 8am-9am PT (11am-12pm ET)
starting Oct. 2 at

Board Diversity – Congratulations Macy’s

1 Sep

Macy’s has one of the most diverse Board of Directors in America. Probably North America.

While much attention is being paid to the gender disparity in boards (most Directors are male), we should also be looking at other areas of diversity – like race, culture, age, etc. All of these identities (and more) factor into the vast pool of experience and perspective that a Board member can bring to the table – and ultimately to how an organization succeeds.

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren has taken steps to have not only equal gender representation on his board, but also has African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic-American representation, along with a variety of ages and key skills like technology and finance.

He is clear  that his choices benefit the company because they provide insight into Macy’s client base, as well as offering key areas of expertise. NOT just because of their gender, race, culture, etc. This is a rabbit hole that many organizations fall into that Lundgren has expertly sidestepped by being clear about what people and their diversity of experiences, identities and perspectives can offer.  He is quoted in the article I read as saying that diversity on his board has  “without a doubt become a tremendous advantage”. That’s likely because they are not just sitting there looking good, but are valued and heard as they contribute to discussions and decisions.

One last thing that came to light in this article very nicely is that not everyone on his board is a CEO. The pool for female CEOs is small, as it is for non-White CEOs – for reasons of systemic inequity. By looking outside the traditional pool – while maintaining clarity around the value people can offer to his Board and therefore his company – Lundgren has assembled a powerfully diverse group.

When the people who help you make decisions reflect the clients and customers you serve (and your staff), as well as offering you value, it’s bound to be a win-win – IF the table they sit around is inclusive, and their voices are heard and matter to the decision making process.

Read the full article, which has more stellar points!

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copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker | Workshop Facilitator | Consultant | Author on issues of diversity and inclusion.

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