I wish to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to the Diversity & Inclusion Charter of Peel’s brand new website! This website intends to serve as a community hub for the D&I Charter Initiative, where information, resources and updates on the growth of the Charter Initiative are easily accessed, where there is a lot of interactivity, and where feedback on the Initiative can be quickly and easily provided to the project team. We are very excited to announce the launch of our new website and hope that it is a useful platform for members of the Charter community to engage with the Initiative as it develops further.

Insights is the D&I Charter of Peel Initiative’s community blog. Here, you will find short reflective pieces that touch on a number of diversity, equity and inclusion issues and stories, particularly those that are connected to the vision and commitments of the D&I Charter, and those that are centered in Peel Region. Through the opportunity to write for Insights as well as through the comment function on this page, members of the D&I Charter community (endorsers, partners, RDR members, others) can ask questions and discuss various aspects of the Charter Initiative in an interactive manner. Creative engagement in the D&I Charter Initiative by multiple stakeholders through storytelling and critical reflection will only make the impact of the Charter stronger, so we encourage everyone to participate in the building of this online community! To see our current call for writers, click here!

 

My Connections to the D&I Charter of Peel

I’d like to start this blog off by exploring my personal connections to the D&I Charter of Peel.  As I’ve previously written, I have a complex relationship with Peel Region. I have lived in the Region since I was seven years old and even though I have resided elsewhere since the age of 18, I have always considered Peel Region to be home. Many of my wonderful childhood memories have been shaped by Peel’s rich diversity. At the same time, my critical perspectives on social justice and community development have in many ways been moulded by the inequities that I experienced while growing up – and continue to experience today.  These experiences include, among other things, feeling isolated because of the way I expressed my ethnocultural identity, being challenged in my attempt to speak up against institutional racism, and feeling cast aside by the mainstream performing arts because of my skin colour.

I bring this up because my ambiguous relationship with the Region reflects perfectly the rationale for the Diversity & Inclusion Charter of Peel at the same time that it grants me the unique opportunity to reflect on my experiences while leading the current phase of this Initiative. In other words, The Region of Peel is home to a number of complex opportunities and challenges:  It is one of Canada’s most diverse and fastest growing municipalities, with the Toronto airport at its centre, with a large Francophone community, with the second largest school board in the country, and with over 90 languages spoken at home.  By contrast, the gap between an increasingly diverse population and responsive community services is growing; freedom of expression and competing rights debates loom large; public institutions are contending with competing priorities; racial profiling continues; and newcomers still face numerous barriers to equitable employment in the Region.

The unified vision and commitments of the D&I Charter thus reflect a collective response to these regional complexities, where the learning is ongoing, where individual experiences such as mine are taken seriously, where organizational infrastructure is regularly examined using a diversity, equity and inclusion lens, and where individual/institutional contributions to systems transformation are constantly recognized and celebrated.

As Peel grows and changes, so too must the frameworks and methodologies we employ to assess community need, provide service, create productive organizations and build a thriving community.  My hope is that the vision and commitments articulated in the D&I Charter of Peel continue to flourish as the project evolves, and as the region undergoes its journey of diversity, equity and inclusion.

 

Amrita Kumar-Ratta has a Masters in Global Affairs from the Munk School at the University of Toronto. She also holds a BA (Hon.) in International Development Studies and World Religions from McGill University. She is passionate about issues of transnational migration, religio-cultural diversity and gender equity. She has been the Project Lead for the D&I Charter Initiative since August 2014 and can be reached at amrita@regionaldiversityroundtable.org.