Why Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is So Important … Especially Today

Transitionpassportteam_BLOGimageJune2016Holland Bloorview’s 2016 Sheila Jarvis Award Winners

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s June 13 Leadership Forum was on the topic of equity, diversity and inclusion. This had been planned months ago, but the discussion couldn’t have felt timelier having followed less than 48 hours after this weekend’s tragedy in Orlando, Florida.

As I usually do, I opened the Leadership Forum with remarks and this is the substance of what I said.

We are fortunate to be able to sit in this beautiful hospital building on lands that have belonged to First Peoples for thousands of years. Most recently these have been the recognized lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Meegwetch. Thank you.

It is also June and that means Pride Month, so happy Pride to all of you! For those who observe, it is Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarek. And this weekend I participated in a session on Jewish approaches to disability and inclusion hosted by the Miles Nadel JCC in downtown Toronto for the Jewish holiday Shavuot. In as culturally diverse a city as Toronto and as culturally diverse a community as ours there is always a multitude of different celebrations and observances going on at any one time, something that always makes me feel very fortunate.

I don’t know who first shared with me the idea that we all carry around our individual (metaphorical) backpack. It might have been Holland Bloorview’s Louise Kinross or something I read in her wonderful BLOOM Blog or maybe I picked it up somewhere else. In our backpack we carry with us our experiences, our perspectives, our life choices, our culture and tradition, even whether getting the kids off to school this morning was smooth or WWIII! And as it is an invisible backpack, we can’t ever know what’s in the one that another person carries. But we know they carry it, and it affects who they are, what they say, how they react.

Today, we can expect many people’s backpacks to be heavier because of the act of hate and violence that happened this past weekend in Orlando. There will be clients, caregivers, family members, volunteers and staff who when they walk into our hospital today, will feel a bit less safe than they did on Friday. There will be other members of our community (clients, families, staff, volunteers, etc) who will feel like they will get more funny looks, more scrutiny today, because they look like someone’s idea of an “Islamic extremist.” Their backpacks will be heavier today, and in the days and weeks to come.

At Holland Bloorview our vision is a world of possibility for kids with disabilities. The way we frame and realize equity, diversity and inclusion for our organization will be in keeping with our DNA – our values, vision, mission and our belief in the strength, possibilities and optimism in our work with kids of all abilities. We are probably among the world’s experts on strength and resilience…taught by our clients and families.

Equity, diversity and inclusion is important every day, especially for an organization whose soul is in serving children who face being marginalized in so many aspects of their lives. Building a better, more inclusive, more just world for our children is important every day…especially today.

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