Senator Omidvar: A Practical First Step to Distance Ourselves from the Monarchy

Senator Omidvar raises whether the citizenship oath should remain only the Queen (as the Crown in the institutional sense) or to Canada C-8, the bill broadening the oath to include Indigenous treaty rights is before Parliament. This raises the possibility of an amendment during the Senate review of the Bill, and an interesting and overdue debate.

(The Chrétien government considered amending the oath some 25 years ago but the PM nixed the idea given timing closing to the 1995 Quebec referendum: “I’m not sure I want to take on the separatists and the monarchists at the same time.”) Citizenship oath to Queen nearly nixed 20 years ago

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry has raised questions about Canada’s connection to the monarchy.

It’s a strong and deep connection that’s expressed in many ways, big and small: We have a Governor General who represents the Queen in Canada, we maintain a residence for the Queen in Ottawa, our currency bears the image of a monarch, and every so often we host a royal tour.

The Senate of Canada, which I am privileged to belong to, is likely the institution most steeped in the ritual and traditions of Westminster. The doors to the Senate chamber are opened every sitting by the Usher of the Black Rod, who carries an ebony cane as a symbol of royal authority. He’s followed by the mace-bearer, because, without the mace, the Senate cannot meet. As a senator, I must bow to the Queen every time I enter or leave the Senate chamber. Every bill passed in the Senate receives a “royal” assent.

Despite these traditions, calls to drop the Queen and the monarchy from Canada have grown louder. However, anyone who’s even the least bit pragmatic will realize that efforts to remove the monarchy will likely lead to a protracted conflict between the federal government and the provinces. The political risks would likely be too high.

So, if dropping the monarchy isn’t an option right now, what can be done to insert more Canadiana into our practices and traditions?

I would look to one of the most fundamental building blocks of Canada: the citizenship oath. I know this process well. In 1985, I took the oath of citizenship. It was a landmark day for me and my family, giving us the official enfranchisement to be Canadian in every way. But as someone who was born in post-colonial India, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was swearing my allegiance to a distant monarch. I know that many new Canadians wonder the same thing, especially those who come to this brave new world from countries that have suffered under the yoke of colonialism.

Since then, I’ve matured in my understanding of how Canada was built and how it works, and have come to appreciate our traditions and Constitution. However, I believe we should be swearing allegiance to Canada, not the Queen — or at least letting new Canadians choose to whom they swear their allegiance: the Queen or Canada.

Australia shed the sovereign from its citizenship oath in 1994, instead asking citizens to commit to Australia and its values. Sen. Philip Faulkner made the case for reinforcing the notion of an Australian citizenship. He noted that “Australian citizenship, with its attendant rights and obligations, is part of the glue which binds the nation and its citizens in a manner that gives adequate recognition to the reciprocity of that bond.”

Citizenship lies solely under federal jurisdiction. The oath can be changed simply by passing a bill through Parliament. It would require political will and leadership, but it’s within the realm of the possible.

This would demonstrate that Canada has come of age, is exerting more independence, and is ever so slightly breaking away from the troubling history of colonialism. It’s time for us to make our own traditions.

Source: http://www.ratnaomidvar.ca/a-practical-first-step-to-distance-ourselves-from-the-monarchy/

Omidvar: The diversity deficit in the boardrooms of Canada’s charities

Good op-ed and practical recommendations by Senator Omidvar:

As we celebrate Black History Month, we continue to hear loud calls for more diversity in newsrooms across the country, in corporations, and in Parliament. Canadians have correctly pointed out a diversity gap in all those power structures.

But the diversity deficit doesn’t end there; it’s also in the boardrooms of charities and non-profits. It’s always been an open secret that, despite the amazing work it does to help Canadians from all backgrounds, the sector’s leadership wasn’t that diverse.

In June last year, I issued an open letter challenging charities and non-profits to take a hard look at themselves, and ask what they could do to increase diversity in the sector. Many heard my call and wanted to do more. The first step was getting data.

After learning about my challenge, Statistics Canada, along with sector leaders, designed a survey to provide the first-ever snapshot of diversity in governance. The recently released survey found that, outside of gender, the boards of charities were not yet inclusive of Indigenous peoples, racial minorities, LGBTQ2+, and the disabled.

From Dec. 4, 2020, to Jan. 18, 2021, 8,835 people completed the survey. Among them, 14 per cent identified as immigrants to Canada; 11 per cent said they belonged to a visible-minority group; eight per cent identified as LGBTQ2+; six per cent said they had a disability; and three per cent identified as First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.

Readers may well ask: Why does it matter who sits on the boards, as long as people receive their services? It matters, because the boards of charities set the course, decide on priorities, determine how money gets allocated and spent, and approve institutional policies ranging from hiring to procurement, from harassment to promotions.

Charities are not an insignificant part of our society. More than 85,000 charities and 85,000 non-profits are registered in Canada. Before the pandemic, they employed close to two millions Canadians and contributed eight per cent to the GDP. What they do and how they do it matters.

Now there’s some hard evidence to stand on, we have a clear way forward. Both the government and the sector must respond.

The government must collect diversity data every year. The StatCan survey is a start, but no further studies have been planned. For the sake of certainty, the Canada Revenue Agency should include questions about diversity on boards of directors on the T3010 and the T1044 tax forms.

This way, the data could be fulsome, disaggregated, and provide an accurate picture of diversity in the sector every year. Based on clear, ongoing evidence, the country and the sector could see if progress is being made.

The government should also compel the sector to disclose its diversity plans, as it did with corporations under Bill C-25. Only 30 per cent of the survey participants said their organization had a diversity plan. That is unacceptable, and the government should require that this information be made public.

I’m encouraged that the sector responded to the survey by saying, “(These data are) an important opportunity for us to look critically at who is at the table and who has decision-making power in our organizations.” Now that the evidence is clear, it needs to take concrete action.

First, charities and non-profits must proactively create diversity plans and publish them for their members and Canadians to see; they mustn’t wait for the government to compel them. Second, the plans should include diversity targets to increase the representation of under-represented groups on boards and in senior management. Last, they should convene a sector-wide conversation about race, racism, and diversity.

If we’re truly determined to stamp out racism, we need all sectors to step up to the plate. Charities and non-profits do so much good for Canadians. Now is the time for them to look inward, be intentional, and truly reflect the diversity of Canada.

Source: The diversity deficit in the boardrooms of Canada’s charities

Numbers reveal a ‘diversity deficit’ in boardrooms of the charitable and non-profit sectors

Good and useful survey by Statistics Canada and ongoing work by Senator Omidvar in this area:

There’s a “diversity deficit” in the boardrooms of Canada’s charitable and not-for-profit sector, even though government funding and public donations are their main source of revenues.

A Statistics Canada survey has found 59 per cent of responding board members in the sector were women, but designated groups appeared to be under-represented in the governance of these organizations.

Of the 6,182 people who sat on these boards and responded to the survey, only 14 per cent identified themselves as immigrants; 12 per cent as belonging to a visible minority group; nine per cent as LGBTQ2+; six per cent as persons with a disability; and three per cent as First Nations, Métis or Inuit.

Only 42 per cent of the respondents reported that their organization has a written policy on board diversity, said the report released Thursday.

According to the federal agency, 22 per cent of the Canadian population are immigrants; 19 per cent belong to a visible minority group; 22 per cent of those aged 15 and above have one or more disabilities; and five per cent are First Nations, Métis or Inuit. A 2015 Canadian health report found three per cent of Canadians aged between 18 and 59 self-identified as gay or bisexual, and other estimates have been significantly higher.

Although this survey data was collected through crowdsourcing from professional networks within the sector — and not through probability-based sampling — it provides a glimpse into how well the leadership reflects and includes the voices of diverse communities.

“The numbers tell us that there is a diversity deficit in the governance of the sector. Many charities have challenges in this context,” says Sen. Ratna Omidvar of Ontario, who challenged the sector last summer to start collecting demographic data in the wake of the racial reckoning spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“It’s important for all of the society, particularly for charities and not-for-profit organizations because governors set their missions. They decide how dollars are spent. They make decisions on how an organization will respond to this or that. They are in control of the resources that come both from the government and donors.”

Researchers surveyed almost 9,000 people in total and 6,182 of them reported sitting on a board in the non-profit sector.

Three quarters of these board members belonged to an organization that operates locally; 13 per cent at a provincial level; eight per cent nationally; and three per cent internationally.

Their organizations engaged in a range of activities: social services (23 per cent); arts and culture (16 per cent); education and research (13 per cent); sports and recreation (12 per cent); and health (10 per cent). More than half of the respondents said their organizations served at least one of the designated minority groups.

While the local organizations were more likely to be involved in social services, their provincial and national counterparts tended to engage in education and research or in grants and fundraising, or were business or professional associations or unions. The international organizations reported global activities or arts and culture as their main focus.

Organizations engaged in sports and recreation or in religious non-profits and charities were least likely to have a written policy on board diversity. Respondents belonging to the designated groups were often involved in organizations with an official diversity mandate.

Omidvar said it’s important for the sector to look at governance through a diversity lens and follow a federal reporting system that’s already required of corporations to disclose demographic diversity in their governance.

“We ask nothing of the charitable and non-profit sector. We all think of them as angels and they are, but even angels need evidence to take further actions,” she said. “We need reliable, ongoing surveys and data that’s analyzed to move forward.”

One suggestion, she said, is for the Canada Revenue Agency to require every charitable and not-for-profit organization to submit information pertaining to their governance diversity in order to renew their registration status annually.

“Adding that one question is not going to cost anyone any money, but it will get us the evidence that we need and then we will be able to take it further,” said Omidvar.

“It requires political will. There are candidates who are qualified, willing, ready and able to sit on boards. They did not get that opportunity. It’s time that Canadians woke up to that diversity deficit in our charities and non-profit sector.”

Source: Numbers reveal a ‘diversity deficit’ in boardrooms of the charitable and non-profit sectors

Door to the C-Suite still locked for many diverse candidates amid slow pace of change

Good to have this data indicating the need for change:

Nancy Tower knows just how important help from the highest echelons of corporate Canada can be for someone trying to break into the old boys’ club.

She was a promising worker when she started at Halifax-based energy company Emera Inc. in 1997, but said a “gender-blind” CEO gave her some advice that helped her ascend to become the president and chief executive at subsidiary Tampa Electric.

He prodded her to get experience in all areas of the business, making her a more well-rounded executive candidate, even if it was lonely at times.

“I was chief financial officer of Emera for six years and when I would attend conferences, most of the CFOs would be male. I didn’t have a lot of female colleagues,” Tower said. “I think the utility business does tip toward more males in senior positions.”

Despite the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements spurring a push for change across corporate Canada, data shows the country’s most powerful companies haven’t made much progress since Tower’s ascent.

Women are still significantly underrepresented at the top ranks of Canada’s most prominent and powerful companies. The figures are even lower for Black and Indigenous women and other marginalized groups.

A study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found women accounted for about 10 per cent of named executive officers (NEOs) — a company’s most senior and highly compensated positions — at about 250 businesses in both 2017 and 2018, the most recent years it looked at.

Comparing those numbers to previous years is complicated — a common difficulty when reporting about underrepresented populations because figures haven’t been publicly available until recently and there is no standard methodology due to a wide range of data collection methods.

Still, the 10 per cent figure is in line with a 2018 Canadian Press analysis of TSX60 companies, which found less than eight per cent of the top paid management roles were held by women. For chief executive and chief financial officer, the number of women had actually decreased compared with five years earlier.

“The door to the C-Suite is locked for women. They can’t get in the door … That situation hasn’t changed at all,” said David Macdonald, a senior economist at the CCPA, an independent and non-partisan think tank that researches social, economic and environmental justice issues.

“If they do manage to get in the door somehow, then they will get paid less no matter what job they take.”

In each of the two years examined in the CCPA study, female named officers on average made 69 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts. That represented an average pay gap of at least $900,000.

The situation can be even more bleak for people who are Indigenous, racialized or have disabilities. Studies say women from these groups are even less likely to be given top roles or paid as much as their male or white counterparts.

Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP research from 2020 showed 32 per cent of companies had at least one executive officer who identifies as a visible minority. Out of the 205 companies that disclosed data, just two had at least one executive officer who is Indigenous and five had people with disabilities in top positions.

“When women make gains, it is not all women,” said Sen. Ratna Omidvar. “I’ve been told the rising tide lifts all boats, but that is not what I see.”

Omidvar pushed for amendments in 2018 to the Canada Business Corporations Act that would have required publicly traded companies to disclose the number of women and people from “equity-seeking groups” on their boards and in senior management.

Governance and diversity advocates supported similar measures as a way to encourage progress at a faster pace.

In 2015, the Ontario Securities Commission introduced a “comply-or-explain” requirement for TSX-listed companies to disclose annually how many women are on their board and in executive officer positions, and whether there are targets in place. If a company does not have a policy, it must explain why.

Since then, the share of board seats held by women has increased to 17 per cent from 11 per cent and there has been a decline in the share of boards with no women. Even so, almost half  — 46 per cent — of companies still do not have any women in executive officer positions, according to the latest numbers from the OSC.

The Nasdaq stock exchange earlier this month filed a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a comply-or-explain regulation that would require most listed companies to have at least two diverse directors or explain why they cannot meet the mandate.

Yet the proposed changes to Canadian law failed because critics argued businesses shouldn’t be overregulated, Omidvar said.

“I was actually completely shattered, but this is politics,” she said.

If the vote was held again, she is confident it would tilt in her favour. Not only are similar measures gaining traction, the country reached a “tipping point” after the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in U.S. police custody.

Floyd’s death resulted in mass protests across the U.S. and Canada and prompted business leaders to pledge to do more to help underrepresented groups.

Manon Brouillette, the former chief executive and president of Quebecor Inc. subsidiary Videotron, said impostor syndrome — where people feel like they are inexperienced or don’t belong in some jobs — plays a big role too.

“When I joined Videotron in 2004, I was the only executive woman at the table, but my (bigger) fear was that I was 10 years younger than other guys,” said Brouillette, who spent almost 15 years at the company and now serves on boards for companies including the National Bank of Canada.

“A lot of women really want to be experts in something before doing it.” Luckily for her, she said, “I’m not scared of failure, so I take more risk.”

Brouillette prods other women to push for a higher salary or apply for new roles without feeling they must meet all the criteria.

Tower, who plans to retire next year, does the same thing, encouraging other women to replicate her methods and fight for equal compensation.

But companies aren’t off the hook either. Brouillette recommends leaders avoid trying to appear “superhuman” and instead make workers feel they can reach out with any issue. Even something as simple as calling executives by their first name rather than a formal title can create positive change, Brouillette said.

“You have more balanced executive teams and the power is more shared in our economy now than 20 years ago, but still, the CEO sets the tone in the business, so it will all reflect on how women grow in that business.”

Source: Door to the C-Suite still locked for many diverse candidates amid slow pace of change

Survey shows support for migrant workers getting more benefits and protections, as senators introduce motion for change

Good initiative by Senators Black and Omidvar in commissioning this poll:

Eight in 10 Canadians say temporary foreign workers should be entitled to the same benefits and protection as any other workers in this country, according to a Nanos Research poll.

The survey, commissioned by senators Ratna Omidvar and Rob Black, was released Thursday in the wake of a Star story that highlighted the plight of hundreds of Trinidadian seasonal migrant farm workers, who are stuck in Canada due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and unable to access employment insurance benefits.

The pandemic has shed light on the vulnerability of temporary foreign workers, who pay the same EI premiums as Canadian workers but who have difficulty accessing the benefits due to their precarious immigration status.

Trinidad and Tobago has closed its airports to international flights since March and the estimated 400 stranded workers are on the verge of losing their legal status in Canada as their work permits expire on Dec. 15. Many have been denied EI, with officials saying their “closed” work permit prevents the workers from looking for other employers, resulting in them being declared not “ready or available” for work.

The senators say that in addition to benefits, migrant workers should have “pathways” to obtaining permanent resident status in Canada, something that is currently very limited for these workers.

“The pandemic has highlighted the fact that temporary migrant workers and seasonal agricultural workers are essential to Canada,” said Black. “We are calling on the Government of Canada for pathways to permanency for essential workers, should they so desire.”

The poll of 1,040 Canadians was conducted in late October and independent from the Star story.

It found that 93 per cent of respondents said migrant workers are essential contributors to Canada’s agricultural sector and 81 per cent said they deserved a pathway to permanent residence.

Canada’s agricultural sector depends on the temporary migrant work force, which makes up 17 per cent of the total employment in the sector.

“We need more concrete and equitable improvements to our migrant workers program. Since the workers are essential to our well being and safety, then the safest … and the most human way forward is to provide them with more permanent residency options,” Omidvar said.

Both Black and Omidvar plan to introduce a motion in the Senate on Thursday calling on the Liberal government to create permanent residence pathways for migrant workers.

Source: Survey shows support for migrant workers getting more benefits and protections, as senators introduce motion for change

Diversity of Charity and Non-profit Boards: Statistics Canada Survey

This is a significant and needed survey that Senator Omidvar is championing with Statistics Canada, as she notes below:

I’ve been working closely with Statistics Canada and sector leaders on this important initiative and I am really excited that this will be the first-ever national snapshot of board diversity in the charitable sector. It’s crucial to collect and track this data in order for charities and non-profits to take an intentional approach towards increasing diversity on their boards so that they reflect the diversity of Canada.

Better data helps identify under-representation and opportunities to ensure that charities and non-profit organizations better reflect the communities they serve and I urge those of you on boards to take the time and submit the questionnaire.

A Message from Statistics Canada
The objective of this crowdsourcing initiative is to understand who serves on the boards of charity and non-profit organizations. In addition to collecting information about the diversity of board members, we explore topics such as what organizations do, who they serve, and where they are located. This information will help charities and non-profits better understand how their board compares to those of similar organizations.
Your participation is important: Your voice matters 
We want to hear from you, whether you sit on a board of directors or are involved in the governance of charities or non-profits. Please take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire and feel free to forward this email to your peers—the more people participate, the better the data.
 
Participating is easy and secure 
Click this link to participate:  https://www.statcan.gc.ca/diversity-questionnaire.
 
This data collection is conducted under the authority of the Statistics Act, which ensures that the information you provide will be kept confidential, and used only for statistical and research purposes.
 
For general enquiries and technical assistance 
Contact us Monday to Friday (except holidays), from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Eastern Time):1-877-949-9492 (TTY: 1-800-363-7629*)infostats@canada.ca*If you use an operator-assisted relay service, you can call us during regular business hours. You do not need to authorize the operator to contact us.
 
For more information about the data collection visit:https://www.statcan.gc.ca/diversity

Omidvar and Khanna: Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

Great commentary:

Canada has a long history of racism: colonization, slavery, the residential school system, the Chinese head tax, the SS Komagata Maru, the Japanese internment and the demolition of Africville. Although Canada became the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour have continued to face racism from our past to our present.

As a nation, we have realized that we cannot live up to our promise of an equitable society if we continue to uphold overt and covert forms of racism. Race scholar Ibram X. Kendi says we are either racist or actively anti-racist, and there is no in-between. The work we are talking about is not just a necessary change, but one that is long overdue. However, even the best of intentions, strategies and plans can fail if they are not cognizant of the pitfalls ahead of them.

Here are the pitfalls to avoid. Let’s call them the seven deadly sins.

The first is the sin of empty words and a singular action. Some call this diversity theatre or performative ally-ship. We must collectively commit to changing behaviours and policies with timelines and resources. This is not passion, it is work. It is not trendy, it is ongoing. It is not aspirational, it is grounded in practice, unlearning and re-learning.

The second is the sin of ignoring or failing to gather evidence. Anti-racism work is not an opinion sport. It must be grounded in intersectional qualitative and quantitative data and analysis, so that the progress can be benchmarked against evidence.

The third is punting responsibility away from leadership. Anti-racism work needs an ongoing commitment from those in positions of influence, not just when it is convenient. Leaders have the power and resources to create cultural change, to centre Black and Indigenous experiences, and to address systemic racism. The worst thing we can do is underestimate the need for support from the top.

The fourth is the sin of ignoring whom you have influence over and do business with. Organizations often forget that this is, in fact, their most important lever. By using an anti-racist lens on procurement, for instance, it is possible to extend the reach of strategies to a wider circle.

The fifth is the sin of overlooking privilege. This cements access for some and denies it to others. Anti-racism work is about looking inward and looking outward, not from a mindset of “helping” others but helping ourselves understand our own privilege. We can no longer support the idea of meritocracy: that those who work hardest get the furthest without understanding the role that privilege plays.

The sixth is the sin of tokenism. It is never acceptable to invite someone into a role for the sole purpose of ticking off a box. This is insincerity and shallowness of the worst kind. A thoughtful, sincere response can never simply start with a knee-jerk appointment that may salve some consciences, but will do little to embed anti-racism, inclusion and belonging into the culture of an organization.

The seventh and final deadly sin is the sin of centring the dominant group. Anti-racism work is not reaching for comfort but actively seeking discomfort. It is about understanding the importance of continually measuring impact over intent, the idea that how our actions are received is more important than the action itself. We should continue to centre Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. It is up to those experiencing racism to let us know if racism has been eradicated.

As we embark on our anti-racism journey, it is important to remember that this commitment is hard but necessary. We are not free until we are all free. Let’s roll up our sleeves and truly get to work. Our country will be better tomorrow for what we do today.

Sen. Ratna Omidvar is an Independent senator from Ontario. Diya Khanna is a diversity, equity and inclusion manager with Amazon and was appointed to the Seattle Women’s Commission in 2018.

Source: Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

Senator Omidvar: No longer business as usual [diversity and governance]

Good arguments by Senator Omidvar:

Over the last month Canadians have taken to the streets to protest against racism, calling for justice, truth and an appropriate reflection of diversity in all aspects of Canadian life, in particular in places of power and influence.

In this context, those who are appointed or elected to the nation’s public and private boards as directors deserve special attention.  They include the directors of publicly listed corporations, public agencies, boards and commissions at the federal, provincial and local levels, as well as those who govern Canada’s private foundations and charities.

For the most part, these corridors of power are a reflection of the old Canada and the privileges accrued to one demographic: mainly white and mainly male. There has been almost no real movement for visible minorities (including Black Canadians), Indigenous Peoples and the disabled as they stand on the bottom rungs of governance, even though their share of the population is 27.2 per cent for Indigenous and visible minorities and 22 per cent for the disabled.

If we are serious about going beyond mouthing platitudes on diversity, then we must become more intentional about it — first by grounding change based on evidence and next by charting a way forward.

Typically, change comes in one of two ways: either we are legislated by our governments to behave a certain way or we choose to do so willingly. Both can be propelled by events. The events and the mood of the day call for a combination of both, but with an underlining imperative of urgency.

Just as the corporate sector has been intentional about bringing more women on to their boards, they can and must turn their eyes now to both men and women who are Black and Indigenous. Business understands this. The Canadian technology sector has come together to launch a new effort to eliminate racism and bring diversity into its fold. Earlier, through the leadership of Wes Hall, and Bay Street influencers like Victor Dodig, Prem Watsa and Rola Dagher announced the launch of the Canadian Council of Business Leaders against Anti-Black Racism. If they are successful and demonstrate results, they will transform not just how they do business, but who they are.

In turn, the federal government should rethink its approach to corporate reporting on diversity. A few years ago, the government passed Bill C-25 which requires federally listed corporations to develop diversity plans, and to either “comply or explain” their progress on an annual basis. The first such reports are trickling in and if there is progress, it is in terms of gender.  The opposite is true of racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled and Indigenous peoples.

With the hindsight and wisdom of today, the government needs to make every effort to go beyond “diversity planning” to “governance equity.”  They should amend the law to include employment equity definitions (EE) since EE laws have changed the face of the workforce in this country. A similar approach is needed in governance.

Further, the search for truth should take us into the hazy world of public agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations. These include big nation-building institutions at the federal level, like the CBC but also hundreds of provincial and municipal agencies boards and commissions. Data at the federal level is scarce, and what exists isn’t fulsome, aggregated amongst groups, nor is it regularly disclosed. This is a missed opportunity because as we know, what gets measured, gets reported and gets actioned. Statistics Canada should be given the mandate to gather and report this data on an annual basis.

The search for truth also includes Canada’s 175,000 charities, foundations and not for profits. They hold our country together —whether in small towns, or large urban centres. They touch every aspect of our society, from sport to religion, from seniors to youth. Philosophically, they are more likely to embrace values and principles of inclusion and voluntarily begin to gather data on governance through their large and powerful industry associations.  They should begin to do at the earliest possible opportunity, thus leading the way for other sectors to follow.

This voluntary resolve must be further strengthened by government action.  The CRA should amend the T3010 and the T1044 forms that charities and not for profits file annually to include a simple question on diversity representation on boards of directors based on existing EE guidelines.   In this way the country’s vast network of charities and not for profits may well be the first sector to have a fulsome picture of governance, inclusion and diversity.

It is easy to be aspirational, but it is imperative to move from aspiration to concrete action.   Gathering the evidence on governance in a thoughtful and sustained way will lead us from symbolic discussions about diversity to the real expression of inclusion.

The only option not on the governance table is simply governance as usual.

Source: ipolitics.ca/2020/07/15/no-…

Open Letter to Directors, Executive Senator Omidvar: Directors, and CEOs of Canadian Charities and Non-Profits

A pointed reminder that charities and non-profits have work to do to improve their board diversity by Senator Omidvar, starting with better data and voluntary disclosure. Any initiative by the big players should report on the four employment equity groups and ideally be synchronized on a fiscal or calendar year basis to facilitate comparisons:

Dear colleagues,

First, let me thank you for the work that you, your staff, and volunteers have done to keep Canadians safe during the pandemic.  Your heroic efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. I also know that Canadians will rely on you to help them stride slowly, yet confidently, into the recovery stage of this crisis.

But our country also needs to wake up to another crisis. The scourge of racism holds back prospects for security, safety, and opportunity for all its victims. But it has a particularly malignant effect on Black Canadians and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Canadians recognize this; they have taken to the streets with vociferous demands to address it. Governments, corporations, the media, and other institutions are all taking a hard look at themselves to ask the question: what have we done to recognize and address all kinds of racism?

But what about charities and non-profits?

In June 2019, the Senate Charities Committee tabled its final report. Buried in the 42 recommendations is one that deserves re-examination given the context of the day. In the report we took note of the size, scope, and influence of the sector. We noted that it touches all aspects of our lives, from religion to sports, from seniors to young people. It also wields sizeable heft in other aspects: it contributes 8% to the GDP and employs close to two million Canadians. But what about its diversity?

Sadly, the absence of data gets in the way of answering these questions with any real reliability.  An e-consultation conducted in connection to the Senate study, although not statistically significant, found that more than half of the organizations which responded to the survey did not collect data on diversity of employees or directors.

Further, studies by academic institutions like the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University paint a picture of a sector that may talk the talk but appears to be unwilling to walk the walk. The evidence that is available is not encouraging. Racialized minorities made up 54% of the Greater Toronto Area’s total population in 2017. However, their representation in leadership roles in the voluntary sector falls short. Only 38% of boards analyzed had at least 20% racialized minority leaders, and 19% had none. Equally notable, 38% of senior management teams had at least 20% racialized minority representation, while 52% had none.

The Senate recommended a reasonable start to get data on diversity in the charitable sector. It recommended that the CRA include questions on both the T1044 and the T3010 forms on diversity representation on boards of directors as per the existing employment equity definitions.

In this way, the data could be aggregated to present a picture of diversity in the sector on an annual basis. Based on clear evidence, the country and the sector could see if progress is being made, how and where.

Since the Senate tabled the report, events have overtaken it. Parliament has not met on a regular basis and the Senate Charities report has not yet been debated or approved. However, the need to ensure that leaders reflect the diversity of our country’s population has heightened. The sector does not have the time to wait for the report’s recommendations to be implemented. It must take action now. That action is now in the hands of its leaders.

Each charity or non-profit can undertake such a review voluntarily on an annual basis. More importantly, large sector membership-based organizations, like Imagine Canada, Community Foundations of Canada, the Ontario Nonprofit Network, and the Philanthropic Foundations of Canada can request that their members disclose this data on a voluntary basis. Given that the membership of these organizations is large, it would create a significant evidence base from which to draw conclusions. Collected annually, it would give impetus to provide a national picture of diversity in the sector. Because the sector would be in the driver’s seat, it could choose to disaggregate the data to further understand issues of race and intersectionality. Most importantly, evidence could lead to action: the opportunity to compare successes and challenges and share best practices. All without legislation.

The sector could go one step further. It could make disclosure of such information a criterion for all members, thus making it mandatory within their associations. This would send a powerful signal of leadership to the rest of Canada.

Charities and non-profits are often frustrated and hamstrung by the federal government in their efforts to achieve their missions. The sector has urged the government to take it more seriously, as it should. Yet, here is an opportunity to state exactly how serious the charitable sector is on a matter of national urgency. It is time for the sector to lead, to show the way for others, so that others may follow.

I am calling on the sector to take up this call and be a leader and a champion for diversity and inclusion. In the fight against racism, this is not the only step. But it is the first that will bring evidence-based reflections and changes.

I have often been asked if the sector is ready for this change. My observations to date are summed up as follows: the sector’s spirit is willing, but its flesh is weak.

I sincerely hope that you will prove me wrong.

Sincerely,

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, C.M., O.Ont.

Independent Senator for Ontario

Senate of Canada

Source: https://thephilanthropist.ca/2020/06/open-letter-to-directors-executive-directors-and-ceos-of-canadian-charities-and-non-profits/

Omidvar: Will Canada be as open to immigrants after COVID-19?

Canada will need to have a healthy debate on how fast and how quickly to resume the current immigration levels plan as we ease out of the pandemic.

Given the economic impact, it is likely that some trimming of projected levels will be required over the next few years before resuming steady annual increases.

And as I have argued before, plans need to start factoring anticipated effects of AI and automation and, equally important, consider the lessons being learned about the importance of lower-skilled but essential workers.

Going back to “business as usual” would be unrealistic as well as a missed opportunity to rethink some of the current immigration assumptions.

And the issue is not “open or closed” options but rather the degree of openness:

As Canadians continue to battle COVID-19 by staying in their homes or working on the front lines in the hospitals and clinics, my thoughts turn to a hopeful end of the crisis and a return to normalcy. But the new normal may well be different from the old.

For most of its history, Canada has been an open country. We welcome immigrants at one of the highest rates in the world and despite many challenges, we do a good job of helping newcomers be part of Canadian society. We invest in integration at all three levels of government, and the high-touch system generally delivers the policy objectives of the government of the day. We know that newcomers’ success leads to collective success economically and socially.

But will “open Canada” still exist once the crisis is averted and the borders are reopened? That is a choice we as a nation will have to make.

Certainly this question will be a big one for Canadians and for governments to grapple with. The uproar over medical supplies we sent to China (which has since been repaid by the Chinese government) might be indicative of a “battening down the hatches” mentality. Many will want to keep our borders closed or extremely tightened as US President Trump did recently, temporarily banning immigration to the US. They will argue that the spread of pandemics has roots in the movement of people. Travel will become more restricted, health screenings will be enhanced and there will be a growing push to limit newcomers out of fear of spreading disease.

As someone who was an immigrant, and has worked on immigration issues my entire adult life, I am worried this perspective will prevail. I can understand if it does. But can we afford less immigration?

Before the pandemic, most of the economic models said that Canada needs large numbers of newcomers to help deal with an aging population. Let me make this real for you. In the 1970s, there were roughly 13 seniors per 100 working age people, according to the Century Initiative. But by 2036, there will be close to 40 seniors per 100 workers. Our birth rate is simply not high enough to meet that demand. Many have said we will need workers at all ends of the spectrum – from scientists and professors, to trade workers and caregivers. Immigration and immigrants will need to continue to be part of the solution for Canada to thrive, grow and prosper.

On top of that demographic problem, all Canadian governments, municipalities, provinces and the federal government, are spending billions of dollars to help people struggling with job loss, to help charities provide much needed services on the front lines and support businesses that have limited or no demand for their services. Depending on how long the COVID crisis lasts, we could add over $100 billion to the national debt. How are we going to pay for that down the line? One way would be to continue to welcome newcomers so we can expand our economy to pay our debt, fill essential jobs and generate a constantly growing tax base to pay for our severely stressed social programs.

The pandemic also shows that coordinated global action is needed more than ever. Yes, countries should focus on their own people during this time of crisis, but what is becoming painfully clear is that we need a united global response. What affects one country will affect another. We need global action to deal with such large and ever present threats to humanity. No system of closed borders will stop the spread of viruses like this one. We need international cooperation and international preparedness to truly deal with the next pandemic. It is not whether this will happen again but when. We need to be prepared.

But these arguments are tough to accept when fear is ever present. This pandemic will change the national psyche, and how we respond is an open ended question. We will have a choice to make. Open or closed? This will be the defining issue of our time.

Source: Will Canada be as open to immigrants after COVID-19?