On Friday, Sept. 18, I was honoured to be a speaker at the signing ceremony where the Region and all 12 municipalities joined the Canadian Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities.
Dr. Liette Vasseur applauded the move. “As president of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, I am thrilled that the Niagara Region has joined this network, which includes cities, regional governments, and smaller communities across the country,” said Vasseur. “Sadly, racism continues to plague communities across Canada. By joining our coalition, Niagara Region and its communities are committing to join others in fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms. Living in Niagara, I am looking forward to seeing the accomplishments that the municipalities can make.”
With this signing, there are now 83 municipalities across Canada who have joined the coalition.
Jim Bradley, regional chair, said, “Those of us who hold elected positions must strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard, not only recognizing privilege, but also strengthening our resolve to learn, listen and take action to build an inclusive and welcoming Niagara. This declaration is our shared commitment to work toward policies that eradicate racism and discrimination, and promote human rights and diversity.”
Lord Mayor Betty Disero told The Local that signing the declaration is, to her, “significant on all levels. It is how we all should be living our lives, with tolerance, understanding and compassion.”
To that end, the municipality has an inclusivity committee, with members working on a review of town policies. When completed, Disero said, the committee will be making recommendations to town council, a positive next step.
Among the other speakers at the regional signing was Rashmi Biswas, a member of the Gender Equity Task Force of Niagara. “We cannot talk about inequity without examining intersectionality. Not all women are mothers, married, heterosexual, or white,” she said. “The pandemic has highlighted the social and economic inequities facing women in general, and women of colour in particular. Joining the coalition demonstrates that Niagara Region recognizes the importance of inclusivity and is committed to addressing equity for the whole community.”
Riley Zimak, director of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, also spoke at the event. “On behalf of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, we are very happy to see this day occur, where the ancestors of those who helped form this country, work with this community and continue to be the inclusive community we all love,” said Zimak.
Although this is a fantastic step forward, and it’s great to see every single mayor represented, I focused my remarks more on what we must do next than simply signing a piece of paper.
This is not just a black/white issue. It must be seen as more than that, as discrimination comes in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations.
We often speak about how we need to stop discrimination of all kinds, but we seem to only be pointing to incidents between groups. There is also discrimination within groups that we need to address before we can solve this problem.
Ninety-eight per cent of all of humanity is made up of good, caring individuals who simply want to get along as they make their way through this journey called life. But, there is a small minority that creates problems for the rest of us, yes, the two per cent. These individuals are present in all groups in our society.
There are LGBTQ people who discriminate within our community. There are blacks who discriminate against blacks. There are religions who discriminate against other religions even within their own sect. Discrimination is prevalent in every single group, something we need to recognize and call out. And it is this two per cent that creates most of the issues within the groups that are the problem.
Remember that Bible quote that says we need to take the plank out of our eye before we try to take the sliver out of our neighbour’s eye?
So, my challenge to those who are fighting to get a seat at the table, please don’t stop others from getting their seat at the same table. Do some self-examination to see if you are part of the two per cent, or the 98 per cent.
Ted Mouradian is the president of the 2% Factor Inc. and creator of the Law of Cooperative Action. He is an author and professional speaker and can be reached at email@example.com