Tag Archives: multiculturalism

Who is Canadian?

4 Dec

Yesterday I arrived back in Toronto from a trip to the USA. As I made my way through the terminal at Pearson International Airport, I was greeted by this image:


As you can see, it’s a large series of photographs that hangs high above the escalators as you go down to customs. It’s meant, I suppose, to share some of the quintessential Canadian things with arriving visitors, and citizens – both potential and current.

You’ll notice there is kayaking, the rodeo, Terry Fox, a farmer, an astronaut, an Olympic athlete, skiing, an RCMP officer (female, nice touch), an old black and white photo of men going to war, the parliament building, Niagara Falls, Quebec Carnival, and a lighthouse.

Someone chose these to represent the country: a mixture of places and people. It’s interesting to note what was chosen: some famous things (Niagara Falls), some quintessential Canadian things (wheat?). And it seems that the images go from West to East across the country. I wonder what the debate was like during the selection process, and what other images didn’t make the cut – and why.

But what strikes me every time I see it, is the lack of visible cultural diversity represented in a land that prides itself on the multicultural mosaic we have created.

Some of the images are hard to make out, but only two of the people represented that are clearly visible are not white: what I’m assuming are an Inuit elder and a Chinese child (who’s face we only see to just under her nose. I’m assuming she is a girl because of the hairstyle).

Imagine that I’m coming to Canada for the first time, and this is what I see as the representation of the country I am visiting or may be calling home. It’s in stark contrast to the line up I will encounter in customs in just under a minute.

Welcome to Canada.

Our home, and Native land – although the only Indigenous person on the image is Inuit. And there are no brown or Black people represented in the image at all. With images like this, is it any wonder that people still ask their non-White fellow Canadians “where are you from?” – and keep digging until they get an answer that explains the amount of melanin in our skin, if in fact we (or our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents) were born here?

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


Our New Prime Minister

23 Oct

A few things have given me cause to be hopeful about the direction of our country, following this week’s election (congratulations Justin!)

Firstly, I feel like I can use his first name. It’s nice to have a young PM that actually seems to be engaged with the Canadian public – shaking hands in a Metro station post election?! Amazing!

And then last night I saw two videos that made my heart sing: Justin joining in some cultural dances – SOCA and (I think) Bhangra! Well!! I smiled. I was happy. I felt hope rising.

It might have been just dancing, but I’m hoping that’s not all it was. I’m hoping it’s a sign of integrity, genuine interest and caring, and a sign of things to come: that we have a Prime Minister who actually acknowledges the diversity that makes this country great, and is committed to creating a Canada where we all feel included and welcomed again.

Fingers crossed!

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

Radio Show Host – Creating Families

Incentives for Hiring Immigrants – friend or foe?

16 Sep

Thanks to the politicians, the debate rages – is it a hand-out or is it increasing access? (and don’t get me started on the difference between “foreign workers” a la Tim Hudak and immigrants looking for work).

Listening to Q this morning on CBC, I heard an interesting interview with 2 successful business owners, who also happen to be immigrants to Canada. Because I was driving, I couldn’t write down their names and the podcast isn’t available yet – but I’ll attach it next time. Both guests had different perspectives, but both agreed that any program must focus on helping new immigrants get their first job in their field.

Where they differed greatly was on whether business incentives were reducing barriers or giving an unfair advantage. What it came down to was stigma versus equity. One perspective suggested being seen as having been given the job because of the incentive only (which was referred to as a quota system); the other suggested the incentive was acknowledging and reducing the barriers that immigrants face in being able to work in their field.

I can see both sides of the arguement – what it comes down to, for me, is how any program is set up.

Quotas for the sake of quotas are a bad idea. Always. They breed resentment and can compromise the quality of work. But leveling the playing field? That’s different. If you put a program in place (as one of the gentlemen suggested) that provides incentives for companies to hire qualified (that’s the key word) new immigrants for a first job in their field that they may otherwise not get for reasons of bias, discrimination, or just plain ignorance – well, that’s not a quota system to me. That is an effort to cut through the systemic discrimination that continues to take care of the dominant group, and keeps qualified people from work they can do well.

It’s amazing to me how quickly we bristle at the thought that the system, as it is now, may be unfair.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

After the UK Riots…

18 Aug

This past weekend I caught a brief story on CBC news about how UK Prime Minster David Cameron is considering assistance from New York Police Commissioner and Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton to help address the violence that has shaken cities in England this month.

Whether this partnership proceeds or not, or the merit of it, is not what struck me as I listened to the news. What caught my attention was the short clip of David Cameron, where he said that this was about “dealing with people that we have ignored for too long.” That caught my attention.

Think about it: people who feel valued and acknolwedged, have enough to eat, have meaningful work, and feel a sense of agency and hope don’t riot.

It was refreshing to hear the Prime Minister of a country recognize the impact of marginalization. It shows recognition and thoughtfulness about the existence and impact of systemic discrimination.

It’s an important place to start. I hope that David Cameron can lead his party and country to look inward, and reach out to communities to hear their realities – in order to find the sources of marginalization and the systemic remedies that will help communities not only heal, but see and experience a brighter future where their cultural & ethnic origins, skin colour, or faith don’t stack against them.

We could learn a thing or two here in Canada, just from his comment alone.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder



Connecting with People

9 Aug

Two weeks ago, I assisted at a workshop called The Mastery of Self Expression.
One of the main themes of the workshop is connecting with others. At one point, Larry Gilman (the facilitator) spoke about how quickly we look away when we pass people on the street.

The fact that few people say hello when they pass by each other in a big city like Toronto has always got me. But this was a new idea: to say hello and keep eye contact. This morning I tried it.

It’s a grey day, I was returning home with my dog, and a woman was walking towards us. She looked tough, even a little mean (my assumptions), and seemed focused on getting where she was going. But I caught her eyes, said good morning, smiled, and stayed there.

And an amazing thing happened.

In the moment that our eyes met and held, she smiled back and her whole being transformed. The tough, mean exterior I had imagined vanished and for a split second, I saw her; the essence of who she is. It felt amazing.

Eye contact is not a sign of respect everywhere – or in a multicultural city like Toronto, for everyone – but where and when it is, I encourage you to try it. With strangers and colleagues and people you know well. You may be surprised by how little you actually do it. And even more surprised by what happens when you do.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder



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