The Foundation’s Purpose, Vision and Values
Responsive Leadership • Collaboration • Solutions-Driven • Integrity & Equity
The Foundation’s purpose is: to “Build Community Through Philanthropy” with a vision of “A Community Where No One is Left Behind.”
The Foundation’s vision is: striving to achieve this purpose requires an acknowledgement that there are systemic barriers and persistent inequalities in our community that result in not everyone having the same sense of belonging and opportunity to connect, contribute and realize their potential.
This Statement aligns to SDG#10: Reduced Inequalities.
SDG #10: Reduce inequalities within and amongst countries
Targets 10.3 and 10.4 include empowering and promoting the social economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, gender diversity (sex*), disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic status and ensure equal opportunity and reduced inequalities.
*The Foundation recognizes a broader definition than the UN’s limited focus on “sex-based” inequalities. As such, we will use the words gender diversity (sex) in this definition.
The Foundation is committed to removing the lingering imprint of colonialism, systemic racism and all forms of discrimination on its operational plans, policies and practices. To support these efforts, The Foundation has aligned to the United Nations SDGs to monitor our progress and that of our community, ensuring we “leave no one behind.”
To “leave no one behind” is an ambitious goal that aligns with our Vision statement to: “Build a healthy, vital community where everyone has a sense of belonging and the opportunity to connect, contribute and realize their potential.” SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities includes a broad range of those experiencing inequity with diverse backgrounds and experiences. As a charity granting agency we have influence in our community on the practices and policies of grant recipients. As such, we believe that we can play a leadership role in engaging charity grant recipients in developing their own Equity and Anti-Racism policies.
We can also support equity-deserving communities with accommodations to help improve access to funding, being an enabling force to help remove barriers for these types of applications and be conscious of the concept of “do no harm.” With that in mind, the following action plan outlines our community focused initiatives towards greater SDG #10 alignment.
As stewards of endowed funds, we champion local equity initiatives to our Fundholders and donors. However, Fundholders have the greatest discretion over our granting, currently directing over 90% of our grants as set out in Fundholder Agreements. We recognize our role in educating our Fundholders and community through our storytelling, research and subsequent solution creation. Despite current local data limitations, we are committed to bringing an equity lens to the data collection and research that we undertake on behalf of our community that informs granting and solution development.
In addition to our focus on SDG #10 to “leave no one behind”, an anti-racism agenda requires The Foundation to create safer spaces for voices of under-represented groups in its research, granting and impact agendas. It requires us to also ensure that we and the local philanthropic sector are not imposing our collective will on equity-deserving communities and that we engage them in solution development.
The Foundation will move forward in the development of our policies and practices in consultation with representatives of equity-deserving communities and encourage the voices of lived experiences in grant-seeking organizations. While we are not a traditional justice-seeking organization presenting policy proposals to the government, we are their allies and we recognize that we have a leadership role to play in our local community and charitable sector.
As The Foundation strives towards aligning the Board and Staff to reflect the community it serves, it is important to understand the current diversity in Oakville. Since 2016, the population in Oakville has increased by 10.3% to more than 213,000 people. The increase in Oakville is nearly twice both the provincial average (5.8%) and the national average (5.2%).
Based on data obtained from the 2021 census, we know that an estimated 43.2% of Oakville residents report as racialized or with Indigenous ancestry, including South Asian (13.5%), Chinese (10.9%), Arab (4.7%), Black (3.3%) and Indigenous (0.7%). This is an 11.7% increase in racialized individuals since 2016, meaning Oakville’s population has gone from one-third racialized to nearly half.This increase makes the goal of SDG#10: Reduced Inequalities even more pressing. The concerns addressed in this statement are not just assumed, but are real issues faced by nearly half of the population in our Town.
The 2021 census indicates the percentage of low income households as 6.7% in Halton Region and 8.6% in Oakville. For Oakville, this percentage is unchanged from the 2016 census.
Based on the 2016 census, the low income rate was 8.2% in Halton region and 8.6% in Oakville. The poverty rate of Halton’s visible minority was 14.4% across the Region but 17.3% in Oakville. This data comparison from the 2021 Census is not yet available. Just under one-quarter (24%) of Indigenous people who lived in an urban area were in a low-income household in 2016. More than one in five non-binary people in Canada live in poverty.
The table above reveals greater diversity for Oakville’s future. Looking at Oakville’s population by age, diversity is highest among youth. In addition, the HDSB student census reported that the greatest share of Oakville’s elementary students identified their faith as Muslim (27%). In the Halton Youth Impact Survey, Oakville has the smallest percentage of survey participants born in Canada (68%) compared to other cities and towns in Halton Region. As such, we can anticipate that Oakville’s demographic profile in the future will be more reflective of its younger residents and thus more diverse.
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, 1 in 5 Canadians aged 15 years and over had one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities. In Oakville, that equates to an estimate of over 30,000 residents (based on the Oakville population aged 15 years and over from the 2016 Census).
Also based on 2021 census data, women represent 51% of Oakville’s population. The median total income for an individual Halton resident was $48,400, 15% higher than the provincial average. As indicated in the chart above, the average income for a woman in Halton was $42,000 compared to $58,000 for men. This difference results in a 38% gender income gap in Halton. Women of colour in Ontario experience a higher wage gap, with Arab women at 49% and Black women at 42%. Indigenous women experience a 39% wage gap compared to Indigenous men.
The 2021 census has provided national data that 0.33% of Canadians identify as transgender or non-binary. When applied to Oakville’s 2021 population of 213,759, it is estimated that over 700 people identify as transgender and non-binary in our community.
2SLGBTQIA+ and gender diverse populations experience higher rates of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety and substance abuse due to discrimination, harassment and barriers to equitable health services. The chart above indicates that trans and non-binary populations worry intensively about being harassed or stopped by police or security, with 94% of Black trans and non-binary populations indicating this is something they worry about.
2SLGBTQIA+ youth are 2-3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual, cisgender peers; one Ontario-based study found 47% of trans people age 16-24 had considered suicide recently and 19% had attempted suicide in the past year. Racialized 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals have mental health needs nearly 5% higher compared to non-racialized 2SLGBTQIA+ people and 16% higher compared to cis-hetero-non-racialized people.
Allyship An ongoing process of learning where a member of a different group works to end a form of discrimination for a particular individual or designated group. Allies must also have some degree of power to effect change.
Anti-Racism is an active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racism. Being antiracist is based on conscious efforts and actions to provide equitable opportunities for all people.
BIPOC is an acronym that stands for “Black, Indigenous and People of Colour”.
Diversity is the acceptance and respect of various dimensions including race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, age, physical abilities, political beliefs and other ideologies.
Equity is an approach whereby all people – including those who bear the burden of historic and contemporary forms of marginalization, whether intentional or unintentional – have equal access to opportunities to choose, define and achieve goals. Equity acknowledges unequal starting places and addresses unequal needs, conditions and positions of people and communities that are created by institutional and structural barriers. Equity levels the playing field so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
Equity-Deserving Communities is a term used for the purposes of this document to include groups that are marginalized by societal structures. Equity-deserving communities often experience social and financial disadvantages as a result of systems of oppression, including but not limited to racism, sexism, heterosexism and ableism. Examples of equity-deserving communities include: Indigenous peoples; ethnic or linguistic minorities; sexual and people of different sexualities and or gender identities; and people with mental illness or physical or intellectual disabilities.
Inclusion is about people with diverse identities being valued and welcomed. Inclusion is about making sure that a diverse mix of people are able to work well together.
Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging resources with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.
This list is not exhaustive and is always evolving. Additional definitions are in the Belonging and Racial Identity in Halton report. People who belong to multiple equity-deserving communities often experience overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage referred to as intersectionality identified in the chart below.
The Foundation’s Action Plan
This Statement is a living document that we expect to evolve and grow with our own education, awareness and strategic thinking. We must continue to listen and to reevaluate processes and actions to ensure we seek to listen, remain humble, relevant and open to emerging needs, ideas and ways of working.
Under the leadership of the Governance and Nominating Committee, The Foundation is asking the uncomfortable questions that need to be asked about our current structure and operations. As a privileged charitable entity and local sector leader, it is incumbent upon us to lead by example and share a pathway forward with local charities.
The Foundation can utilize the power of its procurement to amplify equity practices in our community. The Foundation will review anti-racism and equity policies of major suppliers to signal The Foundation’s commitment to systemic change to them and to encourage suppliers to develop and implement such policies. The Foundation’s largest supplier is the investment manager employed to manage the investment pool. As part of its oversight of the manager’s performance, the Investment Committee reviewed the manager’s Global Respect and Inclusion Policy. The Foundation will continue to monitor the policies of new suppliers as supported by its new procurement policy.
Action #1: Foundation to request and review Reconciliation, Equity and Anti-racism policies for major suppliers. – COMPLETE
New Action #1: Monitor policies of new suppliers
In addition, The Foundation as part of its 2022 Business Plan developed a new Procurement Policy. The new policy seeks to support change and reduce barriers to suppliers from equity-deserving communities. The new policy requires requests for proposals and includes questions about supplier’s reconciliation, equity and anti-racism policies. We have engaged 15 diverse suppliers including Jensen Group, an Indigenous digital media company, Nish Tees, an Indigenous custom shirt supplier, and Gurdeep Pandher, who created a Bhangra dance video for Community Classroom. The Foundation will continue to monitor the number of suppliers from equity-deserving communities.
Action #2: New Procurement Policy to be developed including a requirement for requests for proposals to employ inclusive language to ensure an equitable process and to consider vendors’ Reconciliation, Equity and Anti-racism Policies. – COMPLETE
New Action #2: Monitor the number of suppliers from equity deserving communities
While all activities of The Foundation will be open to scrutiny and consideration in this review, resources, capacity and time will dictate priorities.
The Governance and Nominating Committee undergoes ongoing review of the adequacy of current Foundation policies and practices with respect to inclusion, diversity, equity and anti-racism to ensure the creation of inclusive systems and accommodations as needed.
As changes are implemented, it is important for The Foundation to share its learning journey and knowledge with the local charity sector as well as guidance if new policies impacting granting are introduced. The Foundation rolls out its shared learnings and new policies through webinars, blogs and information sessions. For example, the Enable Education tool is shared to charities applying to GIVEOakville as well as through our eNews and we continue to see registration and completion of the course.
10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, gender diversity (sex), disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
Action #3: Governance and Nominating Committee to review the adequacy of current Foundation policies and practices with respect to inclusion, diversity, equity and anti-racism. – COMPLETE/ON-GOING
Action #4: Foundation to share learnings and new policies through webinars and information sessions with local charities. – ON-GOING
There are calls from within Government and regulatory bodies to require public reporting of the demographic profile of charity board leadership as a means of ensuring greater diversity. As part of its risk management process, The Foundation must be prepared to enable reporting if demanded by regulatory bodies. As part of its work tracking the diversity of The Foundation Board and staff, the Governance and Nominating Committee has developed a means to monitor The Foundation’s progress under SDG Indicator #10.2. All new volunteer board member prospects are invited to share their demographic identity with the Governance and Nominating Committee as part of the nomination process.
Action #5: Governance and Nominating Committee to track diversity of Foundation Board and staff to enable reporting as required by regulatory bodies. – COMPLETE/ON-GOING
The Foundation has brought a local focus to Truth & Reconciliation initiatives and is committed to working in partnership with local organizations like the Town, Oakville Public Library, school boards and Sheridan College to move this agenda forward. The Foundation has also taken the further step to directly engage an Indigenous Cultural Advisor from the local treaty-holders to provide guidance to The Foundation, staff, Board and community on reconciliation and an Indigenous perspective to local activities.
The guidance of Elder Peter Schuler has resulted in a number of events, initiatives and activities including the Debwewin: The Oakville Truth Project, the Oakville Treaty Report, the Treaty 22 Celebration event and more.
Action #6: Foundation to engage an Indigenous Cultural Advisor to guide The Foundation, Board and community on Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation. – COMPLETE/ON-GOING
In partnership with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN), The Foundation launched Debwewin in October 2021 to further our shared understanding of Oakville’s Indigenous past and support local Truth & Reconciliation.
Led by MCFN Elder and Indigenous Advisor Peter Schuler, it has an Advisory Council to lead the project to foster deeper understanding of the local history of the Indigenous people in Oakville from an Anishinaabek perspective. In 2022, Gimaa’s Ally Leadership Council was launched to support community to community reconciliation. The Debwewin Project has a number of main long-term objectives and the progress has been shared in the table below:
As a Truth and Reconciliation process, Debwewin relies on healing relationships, sharing truths, listening to the knowledge that is being shared and doing our part to redress past harms. As we recover the truth, healing the original intended relationship of the Treaties as Treaties of Allyship, providing reciprocity — equal benefits from the land to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples — offers a path forward. Restoring allyship and reciprocity with MCFN initially offers tangible outcomes for local reconciliation.
The Foundation has committed to acts of reciprocity such as ensuring the programming through Community Classroom is available to schools in Oakville and to Lloyd S. King Elementary School, sharing proceeds from the sale of Treaty plaques, Debwewin t-shirts and the Treaty report as well as ensuring that both communities are able to participate together in events, such as the Treaty celebration events.
Action #7: Foundation to commit to reciprocity: mutual benefit in the Debwewin project for the MCFN and Oakville communities. – COMPLETE/ON-GOING
The Foundation will, as part of the monitoring of The Foundation’s progress under SDG Indicator #10.2, strive to engage diverse donors and grant applicants located in Oakville. The Foundation will track its allocation of grants to equity-seeking charities that are local to our community and will determine if additional action is required to reach these local charitable equity-seeking communities. Although some of the philanthropy and granting efforts may be provincial or national in scope, The Foundation’s focus and priority will be on opportunities to support local organizations. Communication processes were reviewed to ensure equitable promotion of donor events and philanthropic and granting opportunities.
The Foundation produces online advertisements in languages such as Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and Arabic for its GIVEOakville campaign and advertises through community-specific publications like Sing Tao to ensure we are reaching more diverse audiences.
Action #8: Foundation to strive to engage diverse donors. – ON-GOING
Action #9: Foundation to track grants to charitable equity-deserving communities and determine if additional action is required to overcome barriers for local Charities from these communities. – COMPLETE/ON-GOING
Currently, to receive a community grant, we require charities to sign a Human Rights Code anti-discrimination resolution. We have moved towards greater SDG #10 alignment – Reducing Inequalities – in our charity granting requirements from the lens of “leave no one behind”. In the event of Foundation top-up dollars being made available for community granting, a minimum of 10% of that total is to be allocated to BIPOC and gender-led organizations that meet a specific set of criteria. This criteria has been developed in consultation with these representative groups. GIVEOakville 2022 saw 10 charities receive these allocated funds for BIPOC and gender-led organizations, totalling $140,295.55.
The Foundation’s Granting Policy for applications with Indigenous or equity-deserving community focus, content or impact requires that such applications be either led or guided by that community. It also commits to reviewing community grant applications that have Indigenous or equity-deserving community content, focus or impact by members of that community. In support of increasing equity in The Foundation’s granting practices, in 2022 the Granting Policy has been updated to include a requirement for community grant applications relevant to or submitted by equity-deserving groups be led or guided by members of those communities. Charitable solutions for Indigenous and equity-deserving communities must be done “with them and not for them”.
At the same time, The Foundation looks to members of equity-seeking communities to be part of The Foundation’s application review process, particularly if grants pertain to the BIPOC community for guidance, cultural relevance and acceptability. In addition, regional charities have been encouraged to engage in The Foundation’s DEI education tool to further their DEI journey and understanding. This supports the understanding of our granting process and overall mandate.
Action #10: Granting Policy to be updated to ensure charity granting recipients are committed to SDG #10 to “leave no one behind” and will work actively to build an organizational culture and practice that is inclusive, equitable and anti-racist. – COMPLETE
Action #11: Grants awarded for grant applications from supporting equity-deserving communities must be advised or led by members of those equity-deserving communities. – ON-GOING
Action #12: The Foundation will engage grant reviewers from equity-deserving organizations to assist in reviews of applications supporting equity-deserving communities. – ON-GOING
The Investment Policy, which governs the investments held by The Foundation in the Investment Pool of over $100 million in charitable funds, reflects consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in the investment process — which include equity and anti-racism issues in employment practices and public relations — is necessary to optimize long-term risk-adjusted returns, reduce reputational risk and align with its mission of building opportunity for future generations. The policy specifies that Investment Managers for the Investment Pool will be required to be signatories of the “United Nations Principles for Responsible Investments” (UNPRI).
As part of The Foundation’s commitment towards equity, the Investment Committee will continue to request reporting from our Investment Manager on investments in the portfolio and proxy voting activities that align with SDGs.
Action #13: Investment Committee to work with investment managers to understand how investments in the portfolio align with Equity focused SDG’s like SDG #10. – ON-GOING
The Foundation has an opportunity to provide leadership and progress for equity-seeking communities through Impact Investing. The Foundation’s investment of $50,000 in a promissory note to Windmill Microlending is an example. Windmill provides loans to skilled immigrants who require education and/or re-accreditation in Canada to have access to the Canadian labour market. There is a direct impact on SDG #10 by reducing inequalities for BIPOC immigrants who face barriers to appropriate employment. In 2022, the Foundation invested $250,000 in the Ilu Investment Impact Bond managed by The Deetken Group to advance gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Foundation, through its Impact Investment Committee, aligns and tracks all of our Impact Investments to the relevant SDGs, including SDG #10. Impact Investments that benefit equity-seeking communities will be identified and The Foundation will consider if additional action is required to reach these communities to create Impact Investment opportunities.
Action #14: Impact Investment Committee to track Impact Investments aligned with SDG’s, including SDG #10, and consider if additional action is required to reach these communities. – ON-GOING
In addition, in the consideration of new investment opportunities, the Impact Investment Committee will apply an equity lens to evaluation of new Impact Investing opportunities.
Action #15: Impact Investment Committee to apply an equity lens to evaluation of new Impact Investment opportunities. – ON-GOING
Amplification of diversity in research and storytelling will empower equity-deserving communities to share their stories, which will provide further exposure to these groups and enable them to educate and make changes. Storytelling provides collective memory in many cultures including Indigenous cultures.
Despite current local data limitations, we are committed to bringing an equity lens to the data collection and research that we undertake on behalf of our community that informs granting and solution development. For a local equity lens, The Foundation will rely on BIPOC researchers and advisors to interpret data for us which describes them and the community. For example, the Belonging and Racial Identity in Halton report engaged BIPOC members of the community to serve as advisors, researchers, writers and interpreters of the data before publication.
Action #16: Foundation data collection and research reports include equity lens. – ON-GOING
As a leader in the local charitable community, The Foundation must strive to engage diverse voices in telling shared stories about philanthropy in Oakville and profile new BIPOC-focused charities. The Foundation published an excerpt of its 2019 25 Community Conversations report in Mandarin and has summaries of its 2020 Resiliency Report in Spanish, Arabic, Punjabi and Mandarin to increase the accessibility of the information to more diverse sectors of the community. Additionally, The Foundation has translated pieces from Debwewin: The Oakville Truth Project into Anishinaabemowin. The Foundation’s land acknowledgement was available in 5 languages in 2022. BIPOC and gender-diverse charities are also periodically profiled in The Foundation’s eNews communications.
As part of this effort to reflect the diversity in Oakville, The Foundation will ensure that diverse voices are included in its reports and in other public communications. The Foundation engages external experts and advisors from specific populations to provide their knowledge for our reporting. As an ongoing mandate we are focused on building an internal volunteer and staff structure that is reflective of the populations we serve. Through committee and board work, volunteers provide a further community perspective and insights to our work.
Action #17: Foundation reports reflect diverse voices and stories. – ON-GOING
Foundation staff members attended a webinar series entitled Deconstructing Anti-Black Racism, led by a Fundholder and former Burlington Foundation employee Leena Sharma Seth. The Board and staff were invited to attend a tailored presentation to increase their understanding of BIPOC issues and to support our commitment to focus on DEI. As part of The Foundation’s leadership in the journey towards increased diversity, inclusion and equity in the charitable sector in our community, The Foundation will continue to strive to provide opportunities for education and learning for staff, volunteers and local charities. For example, in December 2022, all staff participated in and completed the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health First Aid course.
With in-kind support from Enable Education and the assistance of experts, advisors and champions, The Foundation developed an online learning program targeted at the local charity sector to assist them in their learning journeys of DEI. The tool is available to charities’ staff, volunteers and board members. All Foundation staff have undertaken the Enable Education learning tool.
Action #18: Foundation to provide opportunities for education and training for staff, volunteers and local charities. – ON-GOING
We are grateful to the following community members for their insights and perspectives in helping to craft a more inclusive statement.
Angela Bellegarde, Indigenous Lead, Our Kids Network
Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton, Board of Directors
Alexandra Hoeck Murray, Executive Director, Community Living Oakville
Marcus Logan, Manager, Community Development & Engagement, Oakville Public Library
Richard Pinnock, Director, Chief Diversity Officer, Export Development Canada
Leena Sharma Seth, Founder, Mending the Chasm
Alicia Sullivan, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Sheridan College
Elder Peter Schuler, Indigenous Cultural Advisor to The Foundation, University of Waterloo, Educator & Elder of the Mississaugas of the Credit
2021 Statement Consultations Began:
The first draft of this Statement was developed and shared in 2021 with Stakeholders representing diverse organizations and backgrounds. We are grateful to the many reviewers who shared their knowledge and expertise to make this statement better. A Stakeholder list is included in Appendix 2. At the same time, The Foundation began developing many of the initiatives expressed in this Statement to realize its commitments, so REARS would not be an empty statement.
Our Diversity and Inclusion journey expands to Equity and Anti-Racism
In 2015, we released a Vital Signs report entitled A Community of Contrasts that identified Oakville’s population as 24% visible minority and 31% immigrant based (2011 Census). At the time, The Foundation’s Board and Staff was not diverse: 1) The Board was 10 white males and 3 white females; and, 2) The Team was all white females. We recognized that we needed to better reflect our community as a board and organization in order to facilitate better engagement across the full community. For our 2016-2018 Strategic Plan, “Diversity and Inclusion” was one of the pillars of our plans to develop local collaborative solutions. We also added the value of “Respect” with the following statement, “We respect the diversity in our community and the need to create inclusion and a sense of belonging.”
In order to implement this new strategic direction we undertook a number of initiatives to engage and reflect our community. In 2015, in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, we set up the Oakville Resettlement Fund to support newcomers and worked closely with a local Mosque, faith groups and resettlement services to support new neighbours.
In early 2016, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action, The Foundation began engaging local Indigenous community members in discussions around local Truth and Reconciliation. Local Indigenious leaders requested a recognition on National Aboriginal (sic) Day in June, the development of Moccasin Trails and local history at the Oakville Museum. In June 2016, on National Aborignal (sic) Day, Elder Peter Schuler spoke at a Foundation event at Sheridan College. The Foundation signed the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action on Truth and Reconciliation committing The Foundation to implement the relevant TRC’s Calls to Action including the UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Leading up to the 2017 sesquicentennial, we reached out to many diverse organizations to engage in the 150th, and beyond, Canadian celebrations and funded many Indigenous-led projects as well as celebrations with our Black and Asian communities. As part of the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th with funding from the federal government, The Foundation provided matched funding for two Moccasin Trails and a new Indigenous Heritage Trail Kiosk.
Since 2016, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) and The Foundation have worked with community organizations to provide Oakville residents with events promoting Truth and Reconciliation, including public talks, panels, book launches, performances and video screenings. MCFN and The Foundation have previously partnered with the Town of Oakville, Oakville Public Library, Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Sheridan College and the YMCA. Annually pre-COVID, events were held on June 20th, National Aboriginal (sic) Day. The Foundation was also a lead proponent in raising the MCFN flag permanently at Oakville’s Town Hall.
We took leadership in developing and adopting a granting policy requiring any project that is Indigenous-focused to be Indigenous-guided and Indigenous-reviewed.
In 2017 to complete our sense of belonging research, we sought to engage neighbours representing diverse demographics in our community. In The Foundation’s Belonging in a Community of Contrasts report, we found that “those with a strong sense of belonging indicated pride and identity in the growing diversity of Oakville, people who reported a weaker sense of belonging were those who experienced discrimination and prejudice.” This finding helped us recognize the paradox that may be faced by immigrant and racialized people: that they were welcome (inclusion) but still felt discriminated against (racism) in Oakville. We recognized that the opportunities for inclusion are not sufficient to combat racism.
Survey data also showed that our “sense of belonging” was increased by participating in local arts and culture. In response, in 2018 The Foundation launched Community Classroom, an initiative to bring a diverse range of local cultural groups to elementary schools. Diverse offerings from hip-hop dancers, steel pan drummers, Chinese opera singers, Indigenous-guided moccasin trail walks, live performances by the Visions of Turtle Island performance group and learning about Oakville’s Underground Railway History serve to highlight the diversity of our community and foster a sense of belonging. As a result of the engagement of a broad cross section of cultural groups with the successful Community Classroom initiative, The Foundation has strengthened its ties with diverse groups and people.
In 2019, as part of our 25th Anniversary celebration, we engaged 25 diverse groups for their thoughts on how to improve belonging in Oakville over the next 25 years. The 25 Community Conversations report shared 25 proposals to build belonging. These groups represented a broad cross section of the community by race, gender, age, ability, income and interest. An excerpt from the report was published in Mandarin. Our plans to support a number of Belonging projects were sidelined by the pandemic.
While our plans were waylaid in 2020, our focus shifted to ensure that there were no communities facing undue duress from the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. A diverse range of organizations were supported through the Emergency Community Support Fund, Investment Readiness Program, Gender Equality and Resiliency Funds, many for the first time.
We shared the data we gathered on the unequal impact of the pandemic on women, low income and racialized people in our 2020 Resiliency Report. This Report was published in the 5 dominant languages in Oakville: English, Mandarin, Arabic, Punjabi and Spanish. The 2016 Census data appears in our 2020 Resiliency Report and reaffirms our commitment for greater representation as racialized communities represented 31% of our population and 37% of our neighbours were immigrants.
By our May 2020 AGM, the Board achieved greater diversity in representation with 50% of members from racialized communities and 42% female board members. This was achieved by actively recruiting through our community partners. The Team remains majority white but with greater gender and ability diversity. To date we have not been able to maintain 2 permanent BIPOC-filled positions and recognize salary has been a main factor. The Strategic Plan has committed to bringing all staff to the Living Wage in four years. During the pandemic, diverse team members and consultants were hired to lead our Sense of Belonging BIPOC report. Through a concerted effort there has been racial diversity in hiring, summer students, internships and consulting contracts to bring a diversity of views to the Team.
The murder of George Floyd in 2020 gave us pause to consider whether the path we had followed to increase diversity and inclusion was sufficient to ensure we were not contributing to the maintenance of systemic racism. (BLOG – What is our role in social justice?) It is this reflection that has reset our goal towards Equity and Anti-racism.
In 2020, we entered into a formal relationship with an Elder of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation to ensure that we engage in a culturally-appropriate approach to Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation. We have also engaged a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant to assist us on this journey.
We made a commitment to adopt a formal Equity and Anti-racism Statement and Action Plan as part of our 2021 Business Plan. For the first time, our 2021 Business plan is aligned to five key UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities. The Board signed the Halton Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Charter.