This two-day conference brings together community and political leaders, public servants, and other key individuals to share ideas on encouraging diversity in Canada's policy process.
Acknowledging Canada’s diversity—such as a vibrant multiculturalism and efforts to make progress in gender and sexual orientation equality—is one thing, but how do we ensure that diversity influences the public policies that affect citizens? Roadmap 2030 is a two-day conference happening October 25 and 26 at the Bluma Appel salon in the Toronto Reference Library, presented by non-profit group Innoversity. There, attendees will share their experiences and practices to encourage diversity in the Canadian policy process.
If the Ethnic Aisle conversation held last month took a grassroots, ground-level approach, Roadmap 2030 is its top-down complement. The conference brings together key individuals like “community organizations, individuals and community leaders, political parties and politicians, public servants and thought leaders within the public service, and media” to cross-pollinate their “best practices, opportunities, and challenges,” says organizer Nikisha Reyes-Grange.
Reyes-Grange recalls the moment when she realized the need for greater diversity in civic engagement: “Two years ago, I was at a political event, and I looked around the room and realized that, including myself, there were a handful of folks from the visible minorities, disabilities, and Aboriginal communities, and I started questioning why.”
Driven to action, Reyes-Grange made her way to Ottawa to determine the potential barriers to inclusion, armed with questions such as, “How are communities being engaged?” and, “What is the level of diversity in terms of opinions, in terms of how policy is created, in terms of public debate and those influences that go into these major decisions, be it policies or programs?”
In Ottawa, Reyes-Grange says, to her “surprise and delight,” she received a positive reception to her actions. As a relative outsider to the world of policy development, Reyes-Grange was able to think about diversity and its effects on politics from a distance. She noted that, despite “various initiatives,” there was a gap between the initiatives and the final goal of injecting diverse voices into the conversation. “It wasn’t enough to actually bring diverse communities into public participation, into the public debate, and the policy development process,” she says.
From Reyes-Grange’s perspective, the activities that were already underway acted as good first steps, but what was missing was the connection between those steps to create a solid pathway. The next logical action was to bring the interested parties together. This gave birth to Roadmap 2030, which launched last year, and was attended by the likes of John Tory and the Maytree Foundation. This year’s speakers include former CBC News editor-in-chief and Al Jazeera chief strategic advisor Tony Burman, and former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall.
The focus will be on dialogue, with participants asking each other what are the key issues, challenges, and opportunities that increasing diversity presents. Cultivating diversity means bringing in voices that are underserved, such as looking at how to increase Aboriginal prosperity through the education system. At the same time, diversity can also reflect a change within the majority population—with an aging population, for example, accessibility will become a more pressing issue.
Reyes-Grange notes part of the drive behind Roadmap 2030 is asking how to prepare the next generation of young leaders for such a demographic shift. What are the “nuts and bolts” required to carry out what is being discussed, and what are the best practices for such action? In a related conversation, Roadmap 2030 will also look at the targeting of ethnic communities in political campaigns, says Reyes-Grange.
Roadmap 2030 attempts to answer big but necessary questions that Canada must answer if it is to evolve with its population. “Our country is changing and our values are changing,” says Reyes-Grange, “and we’re bumping up against some interesting issues that we didn’t in the past.” For example, she wonders, “How do we balance minority rights when they bump up against majority rights or majority values?” And not every shift will be necessarily beneficial: “Not all the changes will be great,” she concedes, “and we’ll have to toe the line. But we need to have the debates.”