The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Canada’s social justice committee has been tasked with developing material and recommendations related to the issue of systemic racism. To this end, I am facilitating a working group for the Ontario region council which has developed an Ontario based pilot project under the theme: ”Diversity is a fact…Inclusion is an Act.” In addition, the North American Vincentian Family social justice reps are now discussing systemic racism on our monthly meetings with the plan being the development of a vision and goals which we shall share with our various family branches.
While systemic racism is the issue, I believe if we can become more diverse and inclusive in our own organizations, we will become more understanding of what poverty means to people from different cultural communities. One question that may be asked is, why is diversity & inclusion so important?
When I began to consider this question I thought back to various experiences I’ve had with different cultures. These experiences have included attending indigenous events such as Pow Pow’s, or perhaps a Caribbean themed event, or perhaps Chinese New Year celebrations. Have you ever attended a service at a black church with their lively and beautiful singing and music? You cannot help but come away from these rich cultural sharing events without feeling a sense of joy in being part of them. To be able to share in some small way these other cultures, does it not make us more aware of the beauty of diversity? If we can share in the many joy filled events, we should also share in those events and circumstances that are not quite so enjoyable.
In this same way, why don’t we seek to have an open dialogue with other cultures about poverty and the added barriers and challenges that systemic racism presents to people of colour who are living in poverty? Why don’t we look more like those we serve? Why are so many white people uncomfortable even talking about racism?
The more we can learn about one another’s culture, heritage and how we may share our understanding and concerns and about one another as well as a more common desire to make the world we live a better and safer place for everyone, the better is our opportunity to be successful in our efforts.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.