Employment Equity Partners’ Roundtable

April 29, 2022

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I would like to acknowledge that I’m joining you today from Rideau Hall, which sits on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.

Our stories define us, they influence how we interact with our communities, our country and the world. And we have built a country with our unique experiences.

My own story includes my language, Inuktitut, which I just spoke. I said that our stories define us, they influence how we interact with our communities, our country and the world. And we have built a country with our unique experiences.

For some people that story is one of systemic racism and discrimination. Certainly not a version of Canada we would like to advertise, but it’s important to acknowledge these facts.

My own encounters with discrimination began in Nunavik, in northern Quebec, where I grew up living the traditional Inuit way of life.

Policies set about by past governments actively tried to destroy the culture, language and beliefs of Indigenous peoples, including in my Arctic village. Children were taken away from their families to attend residential schools. Others, like myself, who attended federal day schools, were forbidden to speak Inuktitut. We were made to feel valued less than others.

To this day, Indigenous peoples suffer generational trauma.

There are other examples, other stories. Jewish people have experienced anti-Semitism for untold years around the world. Muslim people have experienced Islamophobia. Black people are judged for the colour of their skin, and there has been an increase of anti-Asian sentiments in recent years. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are ostracized for how they identify and who they love. Women are still working towards equality in the workplace and in society. And those living with disabilities find it difficult to be seen, heard and valued.

So many more visible and non-visible minority communities struggle to be heard, to get a seat at the table. They want the same opportunities as everyone else. It’s our responsibility to work towards that.

And there is hope.

Canadians are recognizing that we must take action. We’re a diverse country and getting more diverse by the year. Many organizations have taken a stance to diversify their workforce. And we’re pledging support for inclusive policies and for reconciliation.

But much more still needs to be done. And we must act together.

For the past few days, you have all discussed the theme “Partnership for an Inclusive Future.” Collaboration is vital for creating inclusive workplaces and safe spaces for people to be who they are.

And I believe in you, in your dedication to making a difference.

Throughout this past year, I have frequently used a word in Inuktitut, teaching Canadians about ajuinnata, which is an important concept vital for Inuit, and a word that speaks directly to what you’re doing here today and what you will be doing for years to come.

It’s committing yourselves to action, no matter how daunting the cause may be. And it means to never give up.

Keep going. Keep reaching. Keep working.

I want to thank all of you for your dedication and commitment. You embody the spirit of ajuinnata in your work.

One day, I hope to see a Canada where people can live side-by-side, without judgment. Where everyone has equal opportunity to access education, employment or services that may be taken for granted.

And I hope that we continue to champion safe spaces for our stories, and to teach our children our real history, which may not always be good, but is true.

Let’s all work to be more understanding, to be more sensitive to the diverse peoples who call this country home. Let’s work towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. And let’s all strive to build a Canada where everyone belongs without giving up who they are, or being made to feel less than others. 

Thank you.