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Creating Diversity Competent OrganizationsThe purpose of the Peel-Halton SEII project was to develop the capacity of human service agencies in Halton and Peel Regions to provide services that are accessible and appropriate for the growing immigrant and visible minority population in the two Regions. The project stemmed from a Community Visioning meeting held In December 2002, when a group of community leaders came together to discuss how to "close the distance" in Halton and Peel regions.
Jointly led by the Social Planning Council of Peel (Peel SPC) and Community Development Halton (CDH), the intention from the outset was to create a community resource on diversity competence using the time-limited SEII funding.
The project leaders outreached to people in Peel and Halton who were concerned about issues surrounding diversity. From this outreach grew a joint advisory committee, which gave leadership throughout the planning and implementation off the project.
The educational resource on diversity competence developed for this project focused on how mainstream health and human service organizations can collaborate with ethno-specific agencies and other diverse groups to make sure that their services are culturally appropriate. This written resource was accompanied with a training workshop and other measures that ensured developing culturally competent organizations was sustainable.
A training workshop was organized in January 2004 to launch the release of the training manual. Both the training manual and the workshop were well received by more than 100 participants. The training manual is also available from the websites of Community Development Halton and the Social Planning Council of Peel.
(See Case Studies for information on how to get the full story on the Peel-Halton Closing the Distance Project)
Going ForwardThe Peel-Halton collaboration assisted in raising awareness about diversity in their communities. The educational manual and conference have led to the beginnings of mobilization for managers and staff from community organizations in Peel and Halton.
After completing its SEII/Closing the Distance Project, the Social Planning Council of Peel went on to further develop its own research and training expertise on diversity management for non-profit organizations. During the past year, the SPC of Peel was commissioned by the Community Support Services Group of Peel to provide diversity management research and training services to a network of over 40 agencies in the health and long-term care sector. Five (5) workshops were provided to these agencies in the following areas, for which a formal training manual was provided for each:
The SPC of Peel intends to further develop its knowledge and skills on diversity and equity issues and to provide diversity management services to organizations in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors.
Community Development Halton also continued the momentum created by the conference and training manual. For example, CDH is hosting a "Diversity Breakfast Series" in which modules from the training manual are presented and discussed. This series is a collaborative effort between CDH and the Halton Truth About Youth initiative.
Photos and Videos
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High Res (4 MB) Angela Nijhar reporting on project planning
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Some of the Peel-Halton Project Advisory Group in Meeting
Maureen Brown, Halton volunteer, Angela Nijhar and Srimanta Mohanty, Peel SPC staff participate in All-Region REFLECTIONS session
Peel-Halton project staff plan conference, Laurie Williams, Joey Edwardh and Paula DeCoito
Participants at the Diversity Competence Conference, January 22, 2004
David Hasbury, SPNO Graphic Arts Facilitator, portrays Conference discussion on wall mural
Community Vision (December 2002)(In December 2002, a group of ten women who emerged as champions on diversity issues met with staff from Halton and Peel social planning councils. They discussed the growing diversity of their regions and the gaps of service and experience of exclusion for immigrants and people of color. The following summarizes their discussion.)
Diversity and the Distances Created by Public ServicesOver the last decades the Region of Peel has bloomed into one of the most diverse populations in the country. This growth continues, and now Peel's neighbour to the west, Halton Region, is anticipating a similar pattern of growth. The leadership group for the SEII Project in Peel-Halton care about how people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, people who are gay, lesbian and transgendered, and people with disabilities, can meet a public service system that includes the police and emergency workers, health care workers, education, recreational, social welfare, shelters, and other critical social services. They care about ensuring that our service systems can competently reach out, welcome and serve the diverse population that lives in the area.
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Youth from so-called "visible minorities"Youth from various ethno-cultural groups often grow up with re-occurring messages and experiences of exclusion. For example, Black youth from families who have recently immigrated from the Caribbean, or Africa sometimes receive messages from their families about how life is supposed to be here in Canada, about "new starts", and "tolerance". When they arrive in our schools they are surrounded by messages that suggest they don't belong. Textbooks don't reflect their experiences or their history. There are few images of them displayed in books and posters.
Few teachers know and understand the experience of growing up as a so-called visible minority. They will experience comments from teachers and staff that suggest ignorance, such as, "We'll call you Mo instead of Mohammed." They experience over and over a lack of teacher and administration awareness of who they are and where they come from.
Additionally, some students are placed in grades behind their age because of differences in the education systems.
There is an accumulation of implicit messages that suggest, "You don't fit in". During adolescence, when there is already a huge amount of changes that teenagers are personally experiencing, they are frustrated and angry at being excluded. And all the while those who work in the education and service system remain unaware of their own contribution to the process that leads to exclusion.
New Immigrants and AccreditationCanada's professional accreditation systems often do not recognize the credentials of skilled professionals from the countries of these new immigrants. Doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, lawyers are unable to practice their profession.
Unique Experiences with Police ServicesThe police services that should be available to protect our citizens often pose unique barriers. Fear can keep people from those who are intended to keep them safe.
Police and emergency services have relatively little awareness training that can assist them in understanding these new circumstances. The staff persons from social service agencies, such as shelters, often act as advocates and liaisons between the police and immigrants and those from various ethno-cultural groups.. They walk these people through the system and end up doing training one officer at a time. It is a very time consuming process that adds stress to an already burdened workload in the agencies where they work.
Recreation Policies that DistanceThere are community resources that are not geared to welcoming the diversity of people living in Peel-Halton.
Policies created by the boards of the local community centers, or at municipal council can lead to exclusion. Often under the guise of being "inclusive", policies are developed that have a bias not to deliver culturally specific programming. The result is that the local community swimming pool determines that it is not possible to provide a "women only" swimming time, thereby excluding some women from Islamic communities.
Recreation centres make the decision not to offer youth basketball under the perception that groups of youth gathering will only be a source of trouble that they do not have the resources to manage.
Common Ground Across Services that DistanceThere is much common ground in the experiences explored by the leadership group.
People of diverse cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds do not see themselves reflected back in the services that have been created by, and employ, the dominant culture, English speaking Canadians of European descent. Those who work in the system do not see themselves in the experience of the people seeking out their services.
It is common not to acknowledge an imbalance of power. The privileged worldview exists but is not stated. Those who are employed in our service systems have power over those that seek out their services. An underlying prejudice and racism leads to a lack of will to change.
Some of this is conscious. Some of it is unconscious.
Service employees have gained a position of power and do not want to give up the space they have inherited or created for themselves. Some are frightened by their lack of knowledge and understanding of the diverse cultural experiences of those seeking their services. They are frightened of appearing incompetent, unaware of how to approach people whose appearances, experiences, and values may seem so different from their own.
The individual is very much aware of the power imbalance. They know their place under this dynamic and this often leads to silencing themselves or being silenced by those in power.
People of diverse ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds need an experience of
welcome in services that are so vital to their citizenship, safety and survival.
Our public services must explore ways that we can welcome, include, and serve,
all of our citizens.
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