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76th Annual Summer Conference, August 9–12, 2007

Putting Diverse Talents to Work

MILTON WONG, OBC (bio), Chancellor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, and Chair, HSBC Asset Management Canada
ALDEN HABACON (bio), Manager of Diversity Initiatives, English Television Network, CBC
Moderator: DON McCUTCHAN, VP, Program

Summary by Paul Dhillon

Milton Wong

  • Cultural diversity
  • Understand the contribution it has made to the world.
  • “Tapestry” interested him at first as a way to describe Canada when he first began thinking about multiculturalism and still believes that it is valid today.
  • The term mosaic has also been used, either way, they both celebrate the multiple strands that make up Canada.
  • Pluralism is more specific and less nebulous than what is implied by multiculturalism, and Milton believes that is the way that we have been going.
  • Charles Taylor — describes two traditions in liberal though, equal dignity and the politics of difference, two thoughts that are on the surface incompatible, but Taylor believes that they can co-exist with equal respect and recognition
  • All human cultures that have animated human society for any amount of time deserve to be heard.
  • Milton spoke about some of the facts brought forth in Michael Adams latest book.
  • He postulated that the Canadian experiment has perhaps been a happy accident, he referenced works by John Saul and acknowledged that some of his speech and ideas are drawn from his works.
  • Milton spoke about LaFontaine and Baldwin and their joint history of goodwill during elections in Toronto (relatively peaceful) that planted the seeds of growth between the two communities that existed at that time in Upper and Lower Canada.
  • This action by LaFontaine and Baldwin was not a deliberate act in “multiculturalism,” Canadian multiculturalism is not something that we actively think about everyday and defies reductionism.
  • Aga Khan – believes the Canadian way of life should be modeled and used around the world and this is one of the reasons why he is opening the Global Centre of Pluralism in Ottawa. The Aga Khan believes pluralism is vital for the future of society.
  • Pluralism need the correct context, it must have values like equality and dignity in or order to survive.
  • We are all related, DNA and science tells us that; yet there are very different cultures and values. But the fundamental impulse is the same no matter who or where we are.
  • Milton closed his speech and introduced the next speaker.

Alden Habacon

  • Beyond the Mosaic, Multiculturalism 2.0
  • Canada’s urban centers have outgrown the traditional mosaic model, and we need a new model to describe the complexity of the Canadian identity
  • The language of the Mosaic has been constricting
  • Focus on the heart and mind of the changing Canadians, we tend to focus on the faces and not the person
  • Schema – an online magazine that was formed three years ago builds on an idea that we are complex individuals that move through complex webs of cultures.
  • Cultural Intelligence (CQ) — the most important thing to know though is your own bias.
  • There are differences between urban and rural areas, and the youth that are the second and third generation youth have different issues.
  • Technology exerts a greater influence than demographics, for the first time in history something other than pornography is more downloaded/used – social networking.
  • A virtual trans-national reality that exists now without moving beyond borders. The ability for the instant contact with text messages and email is replacing the delayed gratification of letter writing.
  • Alden gave an example of a networked, internet savvy immigrant, not the norm, but immigrants who had places to stay via craigslist before they arrived and had jobs via online applications as well before they arrived. This process will continue and advance.
  • Businesses are way ahead of government, Businesses use cultural diversity as an advantage. A contrast to this Canadian situation is Malaysia where their response has been very different where advertising for jobs there still are advertised “for Malay only” or “for Chinese only.”
  • Socio-cultural (CRIC and The Globe and Mail – New Canada). Two key trends: two-thirds generation of children have an incredible combined social/cultural and economic mobility. Canadians are not burdened by having to cut their ties like counterparts in Australia and USA.
  • Race is not seen as a core value, period.
  • Inter-marriage with mixed race couples, Vancouver has the highest percentage of mixed-race marriages in the world.
  • Schema model – 3 fundamental assumptions
    – Ethnicity informs ones cultural identity but does not define it
    – Cultural identity is fluid
    – Includes all forms of culture (virtual, sports, food, etc.)
  • The limits of the traditional model are related to skin colour, the schema model allows for a more open definition.
  • Redefining the “perfect family picture” will really show the level of diversity.
  • The imagined family picture defines the line between them and us. The shift is very difficult to do. Alden used the example of traditional family pictures, and poses the question that until you are ready to have one of those other people in your family picture you are not ready for diversity. But there is no problem about being guilty about it. This is a very difficult step to make.
  • CQ – a person’s accumulation of relevant insider information to be intuitively familiar with a variety of contexts.
  • Challenges that are looming: How do we prepare newcomers for our acceptance of people with disabilities? How much do we teach them about the aboriginal situation? How much do we expect them to know?

Questions and Responses

If you could change one thing about the education system what would it be?

Alden – The lack of teachers that are of visible minorities would be increased.

What do you call mixed race children and the children of children of mixed race couples?

Redefinition of what we define as Canadian to a wider definition.

What about areas where diversity is not working? What can we learn from areas that are working.

Milton – middle management must be more open to hire people not of their own image and values.

Alden – to provide better service to all of your stakeholders, falling back on the business case. However if we concentrate too much on the business case we forget the moral case.

“Race not being a core value,” what about people who still confuse and conflict race and values.

Alden – it will never be completely gone, what about immigrants that are coming into the country with very xenophobic views. What we are seeing is a shift of social values that is lowering race on the list of issues that influence our decision making. We should also add some more "juice" to our anti-racism movements.

What is CBC doing to implement the policies about diversity?

Reflect local and you will be diversity, don’t “show diversity” expand.