As mayor, I am often asked what the key ingredients are that make Markham one of the most vibrant and successful municipalities in Canada. The answer is simple. Diversity is Markham's strength. Professionals, business executives, retail operators and skilled trades persons come to our city from all over the world.
At the onset, it was polarizing for me to take on the moniker of 'The Prep Guy'. When people think of prep, they think of the Kennedy compound or weekending in the Hamptons. Probably pretty far off from a brown guy from the GTA. Having brands pull out of deals after learning my waistline, or backing away from a partnership because I am not the traditional prepster they originally planned for, was definitely disheartening.
A few years ago I decided to embark on a backpacking trip across Europe for two months. Towards the end of my travels, I found myself at the Sisteen Chapel in Rome, Italy. As I was standing there, enchanted by this insanely crazy masterpiece, I felt a soft whisper perk the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.
Differences are what enrich our lives and make Toronto the fabulous, unique, successful city it is. Xenophobia (a fear or hatred of strangers and foreigners) has no place in a city built upon these differences. It threatens the very core of who we as Torontonians are. It is also what motivated the horrific and unacceptable attack in which a woman was beaten and robbed by two young men. They tore off her hijab and told her to "Go back to your country."
In a world where a two-way exchange between government and citizen is the goal, it's encouraging when we see it actually happening. Since September, there have been a number of calls for insights from citizens. The end goal is to create the first ever comprehensive culture strategy for the province of Ontario.
To honour Canada's diversity, how about this year we remember some of the victims of that empire? Our racist and colonial past, as well as Canada's role in exploiting people of colour all over the world, must also be included in our remembrance if we are to build a nation of respect for all people -- the essence of real diversity.
As power and privilege concentrate at the highest offices in our country, little room is left for the unusual suspects. We need white privileged men to play an active role in changing the status quo. Prime Minister Trudeau has, to his credit, accomplished an elusive and noteworthy achievement by using his privilege to bridge the often insurmountable leap between merit and power. He made space for his colleagues who deserve to operate in that exclusive arena.
From a talent acquisition and recruitment point of view, one thing is quite clear: Justin Trudeau is off to a good start. Over the more than quarter century that I've been vetting and recommending candidates for leadership roles in global companies, I've learned that actions indeed speak louder than words, symbolism matters, diverse points of view should be promoted, and a strong team trumps a strong individual all the time.