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Don't Just Talk About Diversity, Implement It

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There's a series of pieces published in one of Canada's two national newspapers which endorse the ubiquitous whiteness in all spheres of society.

Multiple National Post articles dismissed diversity and inclusion ideas and policies for the Supreme Court ("No need for forced diversity on the bench"), the Canadian Forces ("You can't set diversity targets for patriotism") , City service jobs, corporate boards ("Ontario's patronizing plan to push more women up the corporate ladder") and senior municipal staff, to name just those. In inexorable smug, self-satisfied fantasies constructed in defence of a white ruling class, lack of competence, patriotism or willingness among the under-represented groups are cited as excuses.

According to a conservative commentator, "diversity can be annoying when enforced."

Indeed, for those who hold the largest piece of the communal pie ― more than their fair share― making room for everyone at the decision table is intrinsically off-putting. Plurality is for bureaucratic hundred-page diversity plans, not for implementation.

MacLeans' writer Colby Cosh rightfully calls a spade a spade: "Lip service is always paid ― in a way that makes it obvious that it is lip service."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi broke the long-standing rule of omerta when he said "We are lousy at promoting a diverse workforce. When you look at our management levels within the city, (among) my top six managers there are no women. [...] There are no people of a visible minority."

Before this assertion, sectarians call for docile disposition and pliant patience: diversity "has upsides when it develops naturally (as, in Canada, it does). [...] It takes time, but good things are worth waiting for."

Canadian women, Francophones and minorities are well aware that social advancements in equity do not grow on trees, fall from the sky, or "develop naturally." The timid tactics didn't work then and they evidently don't work now.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the turn of the (last) century, women demanding their fare share of citizenship rights were ridiculed, derided and told "it was not the time to blow the suffrage trumpet". Alberta's Emily Murphy and the rest of the Famous Five didn't wait for their government to recognize them as persons. They got out of the kitchen and into the highest court of the land to demand social progress.

"Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it."
~Rosemary Brown

As Canadian women gained the vote federally, Quebec resisted giving women the provincial vote. QC clergy, politicians and journalists were against female suffrage, focused on maintaining the traditional social order of the province. Idola St-Jean and Thérèse Casgrain didn't wait for it to happen naturally. The suffragettes worked tirelessly for social progress. (Suffrage was granted in 1940) Since then, Quebec women have lead nationally in levelling the gender playing field, with the knowledge that "les acquis" are not happily handed down but hard-fought. Statistics show that white women have been the primary beneficiaries of Employment Equity initiatives.

Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless effort and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At a time when many Canadian businesses refused to serve "coloureds," Montreal's Fred Christie challenged racial discrimination in 1936. Dresden, Ont.'s Hugh Burnett made inroads in the 1940s. Bromely Armstrong and Ruth Lor utilized the media and the courts to force social evolution in the province of Ontario. The trend spread from coast to coast.

"Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that held its ground."
~ Rosa Parks

According to A History of the Vote in Canada, a delegation of Japanese-Canadians asked Parliament for the right to vote in 1936. It was ill-received by PM Mackenzie King and most MPs, but Asian-Canadians kept trying. Advancement did not come spontaneously. WWII veterans such as Douglas Jung and Roy Mah played pivotal roles in advancing social equality for Chinese-Canadians, both on the battle front and at home.

More recently, the issue of gay marriage was thrust to the forefront when Brent Hawkes performed a wedding ceremony for two same-sex couples in Toronto in 2001. Like other minority groups, the LGBT community did not sleepwalk their way to civil rights. They rose up to demand Canada live up to its promise of a just society.

Dr. Peter Bryce, Chief Medical Officer for the Departments of the Interior and Indian Affairs, sought to improve conditions in native schools and on reserves. In 1907, Dr. Bryce released his controversial Report on the Indian Residential Schools, revealing that 24 percent of all students had died of tuberculosis.

Believing firmly that the state was responsible for promoting the health and welfare of its citizens, Dr. Bryce insisted that the federal government address this high death rate. Dr. Bryce's tireless crusade precipitated the end of mandatory attendance in residential schools. No doubt, his forced social progression saved lives.

The struggle continues as the Idle No More movement galvanized First Nations people across the country. Indeed, being idle was a failing strategy to reclaim their land and treaty rights, although right-wing columnists would have them patiently wait another 500 years if need be.

The plural threads of our proud history inextricably tie our nation's past to our present. Social equality, the unfinished business of the 20th century, is the defining issue of our time. For women, visible minorities, LGBT persons, immigrants and First Nations, it is a privilege to stand on the shoulders of the (unsung) heroes who paved the way for us, and tis a duty to pursue their oeuvre.

Historically illiterate journalists may revel in their selective memory to fit the narrative they want to portray -- one where mere crumbs suffice for women and minorities. Pliant patience be damned! The right time for diversity, equity, inclusion and a fair distribution of the plumbs is always now!

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