The Diversity Project

Our Diversity Project is focused on a Culture of Inclusion — a safe and welcoming place to share music, stories, videos, books, artwork and ideas about how to make a real impact on the lives of Black and Indigenous Peoples, People of Colour and Racialized Communities and to recognize the intersectionality in other areas of identity created by deep-rooted and institutional racism and bias.

We also wanted to create a place where communities can build common ground and begin to work through polarizing conversations and share and learn in a safe and welcoming manner about the issues facing these communities. A space where we can collaboratively build best practices to start the change we need now to build a Culture of Inclusion.

We recognize the emotional impact and the negativity that can be created in the workplace, for these individuals who continue to feel marginalized and being on guard against potential bias and microaggressions. We also recognize that people across intersections of gender, ethnicity and other identifiers of humanity are also vulnerable. Within our communities, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make change and start building positive and inclusive outcomes in the workplace and the community around us.

We invite you to share your stories, videos, books, music and artwork with us.

Stories

The story of the Komagata Maru

More than 300 immigrants from India who arrived in Canada in 1914 were refused entry to the country due to hostility against non-white people, despite being British subjects. After two months of fighting for the right to immigrate to Canada, the ship, the Komagatu Maru, was forced to return to Calcutta, India, where tragedy occurred. Learn more about the Komagatu Maru at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Sikh passengers on board the Komagata Maru, 1914. Photo: Vancouver Public Library, 6231

Internment in Canada

The term enemy alien referred to people from, or whose ancestors were from countries that were at war with Canada. During the First World War, this included immigrants from the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, and Bulgaria. In World War II, this included people of Japanese, German, and Italian descent. The Canadian government implemented large-scale internment operations during both world wars under the War Measures Act. When invoked, this Act gave the government the authority to deny civil liberties, notably habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial before detention). Jewish people were also held as prisoners of war in internment camps when, in the summer of 1940, 3,000 refugees, including Austrian and German Jews, were sent to Canada. People were held in camps across the country. Learn more about internment in Canada at the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Image of an armed person standing guard at the fenced Morrissey Interment Camp (from the Library and Archives Canada)

Morrissey Internment Camp (from the Library and Archives Canada)

 

The Residential School System

In Canada, the Indian residential school system was a network of boarding schools for Indigenous peoples. The network was funded by the Canadian government’s Department of Indian Affairs and administered by Christian churches. For over a century, the Indian Residential School system in Canada violated the rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in 2008 with the goal of contributing to truth, healing, and reconciliation. Learn more about the residential school system at the UBC First Nations & Indigenous Studies program

Children’s dining room, Indian Residential School, Edmonton, Alberta. Between 1925-1936. United Church Archives, Toronto, From Mission to Partnership Collection.

Children’s dining room, Indian Residential School, Edmonton, Alberta. Between 1925-1936. United Church Archives, Toronto, From Mission to Partnership Collection.

Slavery in Canada

The 200-year history of slavery in Canada took place in a window prior to 1833, when the Slavery Abolition Act ended the practice in most British colonies, including Canada. Prior to that, the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery allowed any enslaved person who reached Upper Canada to gain their freedom. Though that was the first legislation in a British colony to limit slavery, it recognized the practice as legal and socially acceptable. Britain had introduced legal protection to slavery in its colonies as a way to encourage settlement, and even those who were freed were often required to work as indentured servants.

These are the stories that art historian and professor Charmaine Nelson is interested in studying. She was recently named Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement, and through that role is establishing the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery. Based in Halifax, it will be the first such research institute in the country. 

An ad for the return of a fugitive slave posted in the Quebec Gazette on May 22, 1794

 

Books

Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller

Cover of Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women – by Marlene Wagman-Geller (Author) featuring Carrie Fisher, Hattie McDaniel and more“When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa’s brutal Robben Prison, he tirelessly turned to the poem Invictus. The inspirational verse by the Victorian William Ernest Henley, penned on the occasion of the amputation of his leg. Still I Rise takes its title from a work by Maya Angelou and it resonates with the same spirit of an unconquerable soul, a woman who is captain of her fate. Just as Invictus brought solace to generations so does the contemporary classic. Still I Rise embodies the strength of character of the inspiring women profiled. Each chapter will outline the fall and rise of great women heroes who smashed all obstacles, rather than let all obstacles smash them. The book offers hope to those undergoing their own Sisyphean struggles. Intrepid women heroes are the antithesis of the traditional damsels in distress; rather than waiting for the prince, they took salvation into their own hands.”

 

Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law by Jeffrey Rosen

Cover of Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law – by Jeffrey Rosen (Author), featuring RBG sitting with her legs crossed, smiling at the camera“This remarkable book presents a unique portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drawing on more than twenty years of conversations with Jeffrey Rosen, starting in the 1990s and continuing through the Trump era. Rosen, a veteran legal journalist, scholar, and president of the National Constitution Center, shares with us the justice’s observations on a variety of topics, and her intellect, compassion, sense of humor, and humanity shine through. The affection they have for each other as friends is apparent in their banter and in their shared love for the Constitution–and for opera.”

“In Conversations with RBG, Justice Ginsburg discusses the future of Roe v. Wade, her favorite dissents, the cases she would most like to see overruled, the #MeToo movement, how to be a good listener, how to lead a productive and compassionate life, and of course the future of the Supreme Court itself. These frank exchanges illuminate the steely determination, self-mastery, and wit that have inspired Americans of all ages to embrace the woman known to all as “Notorious RBG.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Cover of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – by Maya Angelou (Author) featuring the silhouette of a swallow“Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.”

“Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.”

We Can’t Talk about That at Work! How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics by Mary Frances Winters

Cover of We Can’t Talk about That at Work! How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics - by Mary Frances Winters (Author)“Politics, religion, race – we can’t talk about topics like these at work, right? But in fact, these conversations are happening all the time, either in real life or virtually via social media. And if they aren’t handled effectively, they can become more polarizing and divisive, impacting productivity, engagement, retention, teamwork, and even employees’ sense of safety in the workplace. But you can turn that around and address difficult topics in a way that brings people together instead of driving them apart.”

“As a thought leader in the field of diversity and inclusion, Mary-Frances Winters has been helping clients create inclusive environments for over three decades. In this concise and powerful book, she shows you how to lay the groundwork for having bold, inclusive conversations.”

“Even with the best of intentions, you can’t just start talking about taboo topics – that’s wandering into a minefield. Winters offers exercises and tools to help you become aware of how your cultural background has shaped your perceptions and habits and to increase your understanding of how people from other cultures may differ from you, particularly when it comes to communicating and handling conflict.”

Videos