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Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve

ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH provides Canadians an opportunity to understand and recognize the achievements and significant cultural impact made by Canadians of Asian descent. While these achievements have always warranted celebration, this year there is an added imperative to stand with our Asian Canadian colleagues and friends in the wake of an unacceptable rise in discrimination.

The theme for this year’s Asian Heritage Month is “Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve”. The federal government believes this theme embodies a myriad of sentiments that peoples of Asian descent in Canada have experienced and aims to use this month to honour diverse stories rooted in resilience and perseverance.

Three of our colleagues have provided insightful, compelling, and personal accounts of what Asian Heritage Month means to them, and lessons that we can all learn. We know that stories have the potential to build empathy, understanding and alignment more than any press release or corporate message, and we hope that their perspectives in particular will motivate readers to incorporate anti-racism, inclusivity, and respect into their personal and professional lives.

 

 

 

02_Racism

 

Heon Lee, Intern

WHILE IT IS IMPORTANT to continue to acknowledge and celebrate the immeasurable impacts of Asian-Canadians to the nation, this year’s Asian Heritage Month invites us to also consider matters of arguably equal or greater importance: the difficulties and challenges of Asian-Canadians.

“We share a superordinate heritage under which diversity and uniformity coexist simultaneously. We must look to find solutions and build solidarity to move forward.”

Over the past year, the rise in hatred, discrimination and violence towards members of the Asian diaspora across the globe has exacerbated the already devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has placed members at a greater risk of danger and scapegoating, and at its worst, members of the Asian diaspora have faced incidents of overt racism. In Vancouver, a city known for its historic Asian-Canadian presence, hate crimes against Asians have increased by 717 per cent in just one year according to a report by the Vancouver Police.

While I am fortunate to have not fallen victim to the tragedies that many are currently facing, the stories and experiences of other members of my community have nonetheless resonated as questions around ethnicity, citizenship and race have become increasingly relevant in my day-to-day life and existential identity. I suddenly became more conscious of the things that I’ve taken for granted by virtue of living in a multicultural nation.

The experiences of every Asian-Canadian throughout the course of this pandemic have been different but we share a superordinate heritage under which diversity and uniformity coexist simultaneously. We must look to find solutions and build solidarity to move forward.

This year’s Asian Heritage Month presents us an opportunity to come together to deliberate on ways we can take action to address the issues that continue to challenge us, and reflect on the significance of having Asian heritage in Canada.

 

 

 

03_Inequality

 

Jamila Kanji, Associate Consultant

IN THE 1980s, my parents packed up the life they knew and moved from East Africa to Canada, leaving their home, their culture, their family and friends. They had nothing but a few bucks and a whole lot of ambition, driven to build a better life for themselves and their family that had yet to grow. They worked hard in the day, studied into the night, shopped at local thrift shops, saved nearly every dollar they could and were no stranger to racial discrimination.

“Despite multiculturalism being a core principle of Canada, we see stereotypes being used to define us in ways that do not define us at all.”

I am proud to have parents that immigrated to Canada, who put everything on the line for my brothers and I, even if that meant we needed to arrive at the airport earlier than others because we would be “randomly” checked at security; even if that meant there were certain areas we couldn’t visit without being batted a look or something much worse; even if that meant I needed to answer an umpteenth number of times that I am in fact Canadian; and even if that meant I would statistically earn less money than a non-visible minority woman.

Our story is not an anomaly. It is the story of so many hard-working, dedicated individuals, who have left a prior life to start a new journey — who sought a safer country in a time of civil upheaval elsewhere — only to be judged on their accent, questioned about their “real name,” and offered less money for opportunities they are exceedingly qualified for. Despite multiculturalism being a core principle of Canada, we see time and time again the wearing of hijabs and turbans debated in provinces; we see stereotypes being used to define us in ways that do not define us at all.

Is progress being made? Yes. Can we do better? Absolutely. I’m hopeful that future generations can walk the halls of schools and work and truly know they are just as valued as their non-minority counterparts. Although they will need to work hard, I hope they see themselves adequately represented in film, literature, company boards and beyond.

Asian Heritage Month gives us a moment to reflect on the work that’s been done and all the progress that needs to follow. Even more importantly, it provides a renewed appreciation for those who, like my parents, ventured into the unknown with nothing but hope and prayers for something better.

 

 

 

04_Inclusion

 

Sabeen Thaver, Consultant

COMMON ADVICE GIVEN to new immigrants from Asian countries is, “Don’t think you will get the job at the level you are working at now. You will need to step a level down to get a job in Canada”. Very often, new immigrants find they have to take jobs that they are over-qualified for because they are lacking in “Canadian” experience. The biggest hurdle faced by newcomers to Canada is finding jobs in the field and level they are qualified to work in. Many companies experience hesitancy in accepting these professionals in the workplace, and the challenge stems from the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion.

More than one in five Canadians are foreign-born and about six in 10 recent immigrants were admitted to Canada under the economic category. Economic immigrants are selected because of their outstanding academic and professional successes, and these immigrants chose Canada because they are looking for a safer country with economic opportunities.

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) — a group that supports organizations in becoming more inclusive and helps newcomers expand their professional networks, thereby allowing immigrant professionals to reach their fullest potential — identifies two key factors that influence the success of an immigrant’s career path: the middle managers’ influence on an immigrant’s sense of inclusion and performance, and the executives who establish the vision and strategy for the organization. This perspective is informed by existing evidence, as well as interviews with middle managers and diversity and inclusion leaders, some of whom are immigrants themselves.

“Companies and organizations that do not embrace diversity and true inclusion free of prejudice and discrimination risk getting left behind.”

“I was interviewing for a minimum-income job and I asked a hiring manager if there was any position where my marketing and communications skills would be more relevant. The manager told me that I don’t have Canadian experience, and that I had to start somewhere,” wrote one participant.

“The most frequent advice given to immigrants who would like to progress within an organization is the ‘you should be grateful’ mindset. This is biased advice — you should feel comfortable to ask for more — whether in terms of salary or responsibilities,” wrote another. These biases will not be addressed by one-off training sessions, but require broad and sustained commitments from inclusive middle managers who hire and advance diverse talent and celebrate diverse perspectives. Similarly, executives need to empower middle managers to identify issues that hinder inclusive behaviour.

One thing for certain is Canada is in a strong position to make the most of immigrant professionals that have global experiences. With middle managers and senior executives forging an inclusive strategy for their companies, they will benefit from providing opportunities to this diverse workforce. Companies and organizations that do not embrace diversity and true inclusion free of prejudice and discrimination risk getting left behind.

How media’s groupthink effect led to bungling of COVID’s origin story

As the end of the pandemic mercifully nears, everything old is becoming new again. Nowhere is that more evident than in the ongoing debate — revisionist history and all — over the origins of COVID-19.

You may already be familiar with the widely accepted version of the story, which involves animal-to-human transmission beginning in or around a wet market in Wuhan.

If you are familiar at all with the competing “lab leak” hypothesis, it may be as a fringe conspiracy, parroted by a certain former president and peddled by the likes of Fox News. Recent events, however, have helped return this idea from the fringe to the mainstream.

The lab leak theory holds that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. When this theory was originally posited, it was based on the idea of an accident. But in the frenzied political environment that was early 2020, the story morphed in some tellings such that China had released COVID as a bioweapon — a manifestly ridiculous idea that was all too easy to dismiss.

But there is now a reappraisal of the original lab leak hypothesis. Suddenly, everyone from Science magazine to the U.S. intelligence community is reconsidering the idea.

Needless to say, I am no expert, and the question of COVID’s true origins won’t be solved in this column. Actual experts, who have laid out convincing bodies of evidence on both sides, will sort it out.

But I am interested in the question of why we were so blind to this possibility in the first place, and just why the mainstream media has such a tough time which stories like this — ones that involve some degree of uncertainty.

To process these stories, we fall back on a collective obsession with fact-checking, lie-counting and sorting every political statement into tidy categories of True or False in response.

It’s an approach may have served us well when an inveterate liar occupied the White House, but this model has floundered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors and scientists simply have tools and techniques to understand this virus that are not available to the public.

That is why, as far back as a year and a half ago, scientists like Alina Chan at Harvard were discussing the lab leak as a viable hypothesis.

But because the theory’s political messengers came from the right, including Sen. Tom Cotton and former president Donald Trump, the theory was distorted and then dismissed as a dangerous lie or conspiracy theory.

Politifact rated the idea “Pants on Fire” and the other so-called fact-checking outlets followed suit. Recently, many of them have been forced to issue retractions, but the media’s powerful groupthink effect was already hard at work.

Scientists who backed the wet market theory were spotlighted and booked on TV; scientists who were skeptical of it were shunned and silenced on social media.

This had the overall effect of making it seem as if a scientific consensus existed, when in fact there was none. Rather, it was simply the media’s perverse incentive structure at work.

Once again, helped along by political polarization, public opinion calcified in a way which was exceedingly unhelpful.

In part, this debacle is a lesson in politics and the dangers of polarization, which can clearly blind us to important lines of inquiry. Progressives, who were rightfully concerned with the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, dismissed the idea out of hand for all the wrong reasons. At the same time, politicians like Trump or Cotton, who have built their careers on xenophobia and general dishonesty, make it virtually impossible to take anything they say in good faith.

Part of this debacle is also a lesson in humility, especially for those of us in the media who prognosticate for a living. The fact-checking/industrial complex should be scaled back in favour of reporting that helps the public to understand the complexities inherent to these issues.

When it comes to COVID-19’s origins, the truth of the matter may never be known, thanks in large part to China’s obfuscation and the WHO’s shameful acceptance thereof.

But the rest of us need not be blind forever — unless, of course, we choose to.

Let the Games Begin (w/ Bob Richardson)

This week, former COO of Canada’s Olympic Bid and Board member of Canada Soccer, Bob Richardson, joins host Amanda Galbraith to discuss the 2021 Olympic games and the hurdles the organizers have faced in preparation. In our rapid-fire round, the pair go head-to-head to discuss going to the moon, Ontario’s re-opening plan, and the Leafs vs. Habs game.

Navigator partners with The51, a Financial Feminist™ platform

Navigator is pleased to partner with The51, a Financial Feminist™ platform that brings together investors, aspiring investors, entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and supporters of financial feminism. The51 seeks to use its platform to build mutual wealth and social/environmental impact, share knowledge and experiences, create influential investors, innovators and consumers, and build the Financial Feminist economy.

Navigator will be The51’s exclusive public affairs partner and will support The51 on a pro-bono basis. The partnership is driven by a shared commitment to ensuring that women, who make up 51 per cent of the population, fully participate in the Canadian economy.

Navigator will share its knowledge and expertise to support The51 in expanding its presence across Canada to increase women’s participation in financial markets, as venture capitalists, as entrepreneurs, as business leaders, and as meaningful participants at all levels of economic decision making.

Even though women make up 51 per cent of the population, they receive only 2.3 per cent of all venture capital, hold less than 25 per cent of director seats on Canadian boards, and comprise only 15.2 per cent of partners at Canadian venture capital firms.

The51 is working to change this by connecting women-led capital and businesses to power future-fit, women-led innovative companies. To date, The51 and its community has activated more than $15 million into women founders in Canada and around the world who are building new, innovative women-focused business models. With a community of more than 10,000 people, 90 per cent of The51’s investors are women.

The partnership builds on two decades of diversity, equity and inclusion work Navigator has been proud to lead, including most recently the launch of Empower by Navigator and the Black Youth Public Affairs Fellowship—an experiential learning program that provides students with an opportunity to explore a career in public affairs. Also launched by Navigator in the past year, the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation helps equip Canadian businesses and organizations with insights, tools, and support as they work to redefine and strengthen both the scope of their purpose and the contributions they make more broadly to society.

Overcoming vaccine hesitancy is the next big challenge in returning to ‘normal’

From the beginning of this bloody thing, even with uncertainty and confusion on all fronts, one thing was always known: vaccines would save the day.

Everything else — from PPE to stimulus — has simply been to tide us over, to keep us safe and save our lives until that wondrous day arrives when our country can truly return to “normal.”

Yet for all their promise, a stockpile of viable vaccines is only half the battle. Although those of us desperate for a jab cannot fathom it, many people simply refuse to join the ranks of the COVID inoculated.

Last month, NPR released a poll revealing that one in four Americans say they would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine if offered one.

In Canada, the picture is only slightly less grim. An Abacus poll from April found that eight per cent of Canadians said they “will never take” a COVID-19 vaccine, while 28 per cent would rather wait or would prefer not to take the vaccine. The NPR-Abacus findings are apples to oranges, but that level of hesitancy response does not inspire hope for the prime minister’s “one-shot summer.”

In the U.S., vaccine hesitancy has been somewhat of a bogeyman, as in a recent New York Times headline that made the stakes crystal clear: “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe.” Given the centrality of herd immunity to the country’s vision of a post-COVID future, the headline editor may well have gone with: “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the unique challenge a vaccination drive presents for our times. In an era of misinformation, distrust in institutions and anti-vax quackery, I argued, it would be harder than ever to get the job done. Since then, a rising tide of news stories and missteps by different levels of government have further eroded confidence in the process.

Blessedly, this unique challenge is being met with inventive solutions — a combination of incentives, social pressures and targeted outreach.

Consider the incentives. Facing a mammoth problem of human motivation, different organizations and leaders have come up with some very large carrots to move things along.

In a bid to get its campus inoculated, the University of Lethbridge has created a prize draw for vaccinated students that offers a chance to win free tuition for the fall term. The State of Ohio has taken this approach even further, with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine establishing a million-dollar lottery for vaccinated adults.

Around the world, some have chosen to focus on the stick, rather than the carrot. In Jakarta, the government has established a fine equivalent to $355 for residents who refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, especially hefty in a country where nearly 10 per cent of the population lives on one dollar a day.

Ultimately, vaccine hesitancy speaks to the slipperiest of social phenomena: trust. When it comes to human nature, trust is truly a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. That’s because it’s the product of so many disparate considerations: a society’s political culture, its history, its relationship with truth and crucially, an individual or group’s role within that culture.

Battling vaccine hesitancy, the most important solutions are those that recognize all these root factors — because simple incentives can only go so far when the issue is structural.

Health advocates in the U.S. have argued that skepticism among some Black Americans is driven in part by a history of abuse and marginalization by the medical community. Long-term solutions, they say, must address the structures of a health care system that leaves them behind.

While some in Canada suggest that a comparable history is driving vaccine hesitancy in Indigenous communities, there’s little evidence to that effect. It is more a matter of reaching people where they are — through Facebook and community radio for instance — and providing the right information.

Overall, it appears our culture and history make Canadians less likely to resist a vaccine in the long-term. So, while eight per cent “never taking” a vaccine seems disheartening, remember that we have tools at our disposal to reach the malleable 28 per cent who would “rather wait/prefer not to.” If we can use them effectively, even the eight per cent can’t hold us back from a return to our normal lives. Amen.