Thursday, September 9, 2021 Admin

DUFFERIN VOTES 2021: Talk is not enough, action and accountability needed for an inclusive community

Diversity and inclusion is more than a community issue, writes Alethia O'Hara-Stephenson

By:Alethia O'Hara-Stephenson Orangeville Banner

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Orangeville Banner has reached out to members of its Community Advisory Council, asking them to write about issues of importance during this federal election. This is one of those columns.

Now more than ever we need diversity with inclusion in our communities.

The national reckoning on the legacy of Indigenous residential schools has brought to light the story of Canada’s horrid past. COVID-19 has also exposed the ugly truth of the disparities that exists within our communities, particularly with low-income and racialized groups. Lack of access to equitable health care for all has been highlighted as a concern. Mental health concerns have increased with heightened concerns, particularly for low-income communities. Unemployment rates continue to be at an all-time high for racialized individuals. All these issues exacerbate our systems and our economy; therefore, we need leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and tackle the real issues that have an impact on all of us.

Diversity and Inclusion is more than a community issue. It is a society issue where we need all levels of government, community leaders, organizations, and groups such as the Dufferin County Canadian Black Association (DCCBA) to work together to develop equitable outcomes for all.

It is not enough for us to celebrate our diversity and talk about being inclusive. What we need is action and accountability, ensuring equitable outcomes for all members of our community. When there are equitable outcomes for all, individuals will have a vested interest in the community resulting in a thriving, equitable, diverse, and inclusive community.

To support diversity in our community, we must first understand the barriers that exist and ensure that organizations such as DCCBA, Muslims of Dufferin, Dufferin Cultural Resource Circle, and Shelburne Multicultural Group, all of whom are qualified to speak to the issues, are represented and included at the decision tables.

We need to invest financially in organizations that are doing advocacy work and are providing relevant programs and events to enhance the needs of communities, such as the DCCBA does.

We must partner with these organizations to put on programs, events, and educational programs that create learning opportunities for the entire community.

We need organizations to hire diverse individuals who are representative of the communities those organizations serve and ensure that there is a strategy in place to develop junior talent into senior leadership positions.

The benefits of investing, partnering, and having these groups at the table ensures that we are taking decisive action to address the disparities that exists in our community to make it more inclusive. When you invest in these organizations, you are making an impact. These organizations can impact lives and change the trajectory of an individual’s future. The DCCBA does this, for example, with its scholarship program.

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Everyone has a role to play, and we need all levels of government, organizations, groups, and individuals to come together to support and invest in community groups that are doing meaningful work to impact change.

Alethia O'Hara-Stephenson CIP, BA, MBA is president and founder of Dufferin County Canadian Black Association. You can reach her at info@dufferincountycba.org.

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