Canadians rightly take pride from living in a country that has integrated people from all corners of the globe, benefitting from the mix of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives they bring with them. About 20 percent of our population was born outside the country. 16 percent are members of visible minorities.
It would seem reasonable that a society able to draw on such a rich mosaic should, like a biological organism, be more resourceful, more innovative and more resilient. But sometimes Canadians’ pride slips into complacency, or even self-delusion, as though being open and inclusive was a national trait that required little attention or effort.
For the Foundation, social inclusion lies at the heart of what it is to be a citizen. It is not simply to be accepted, but to be appreciated for the qualities, skills and values each person possesses. It is to belong and to contribute, to be fully a citizen with rights and obligations.
Social inclusion must therefore embrace not only ethnic or religious difference, but also people historically and consistently marginalized, including people with physical or mental health challenges, or those isolated by poverty, being elderly or being otherwise vulnerable. Being inclusive goes beyond ‘mainstreaming’ marginalized or isolated groups. Access to opportunity differs from equality of opportunity: often the need is for differentiated and individualized treatment and mutual adjustment, rather than broad stroke solutions and generalizations.
Examples of grants to promote social inclusion include the following:
- Involving new Canadians in the labour market: The Foundation has worked with Toronto’s Maytree Foundation to develop ALLIES, a program to create opportunities for underemployed, professionally-trained new Canadians.
- Reducing poverty: Vibrant Communities, launched by the Foundation in partnership with the Tamarack Institute for Collaboration and the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, is a comprehensive community program engaging all sectors of the community in the fight against poverty.
- Creating spaces for marginalized youth: In addition to YouthScape, the cluster of Sport for Development (S4D) projects and our support for the Pathways to Education model are examples of grants that seek to include youth from vulnerable communities in activities (sports and education) that have benefits for individuals and society as a whole.
- Facilitating the participation of 'dependent' groups: Other groups often regarded as ‘vulnerable’ or dependent include people with disabilities, whose value and contributions are acknowledged and facilitated through the work of the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship and l’Arche Canada. Similarly, Care Renewal addresses the isolation of those providing long-term home care, a growing issue with an aging Canadian population.
- Engaging Indigenous Peoples: Providing opportunities for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and embracing their contribution to our society, is this generation’s challenge. Grants to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada's Caring Across Boundaries program, the Active Circle, as well as participation in a working group on philanthropy and indigenous issues, are at the heart of the Foundation’s efforts to begin addressing this issue.