The common thread to many global challenges? Inclusion — or, rather, lack thereof

The inaugural Victoria Forum, which runs November 17 to 19, promotes diversity and inclusion, and debates the challenges ahead for the global community.

By: , , /
November 15, 2017
Late afternoon shadows are cast on the seawall along the inner harbour in Victoria, British Columbia. REUTERS/Andy Clark

The world is responding to man-made humanitarian crises around the world: Myanmar, Syria, Nigeria, Yemen. And we know all too well the murderous effects of violent extremism: Barcelona, Paris, Istanbul, Tunis, New York and Ottawa.

Examples abound, around the globe, of destructive conflicts brewing or frozen along sectarian lines, fuelled and stoked by populism, fear of the other and xenophobia. Exclusion from the benefits of development — or from the economic growth resulting from globalization — generates individual and collective alienation, and fosters a sense of injustice.

Protectionism and isolationism are growing challenges, as are the economic inequalities resulting from the effects of climate change and poor governance. 

As Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed out in September, in his annual address to the United Nations in New York, we have challenges at home in Canada, particularly when it comes to In‎digenous ‎peoples. 

The common thread to these 21st century challenges is inclusion, or rather the lack th‎ereof.‎ The deleterious effects of exclusion and discrimination play out for many Canadians, from coast, to coast, to coast every day. And cities are at the forefront of these dynamics.

The need to harness diversity and foster inclusion is further signalled by the recently published results of the 2016 census. Canada is aging, our Indigenous population is growing, the labour force is shrinking, disparities are increasing, and the number of immigrants is on the rise. By 2030, it is estimated that more than 30 percent of the Canadian population could be from a visible minority group. This rate may climb to 60 percent in Vancouver and Toronto.

"By 2030, it is estimated that more than 30 percent of the Canadian population could be from a visible minority group."

As Canada and Canadians take stock at 150, we need to assess and reap the dividends of diversity, and celebrate diversity as a source of strength, not a weakness. 

But there is no room for complacency, and some tough issues need to be discussed and debated.

The upcoming inaugural Victoria Forum will kick-off a much-needed conversation around defining climate justice; addressing the backlash against globalization and fostering progressive trade‎; managing migration flows and pressures, and tackling their causes; looking at inclusion beyond the moral imperative, and measuring its economic dividends; recognizing the role of philanthropy for inclusive development; and, defining the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples.

To ensure Canada's continued success at home and abroad, we need to collectively evolve from a short-term shareholder model to a long-term stakeholder paradigm.

The Victoria Forum will chart a way forward, built on a robust civil society‎, strong social networks, responsible investors, committed business leaders, engaged youth, innovative decision-makers, and smart cities. The challenge is daunting, with many complex inter-dependent overlays: geopolitics, economics, trade, development, climate change and indigenous empowerment. 

This fundamental and urgent conversation will ‎pave the way for new opportunities — based on collaboration, integration and innovation — to define ‎a new triple bottom line. A sustainable and uniquely inclusive Canadian bottom line, promoted at home and abroad: capturing economic, social and environmental imperatives. 

Saul Klein is the Chair of the Victoria Forum. Adel Guitouni and Sébastien Beaulieu are the Associate Co-Chairs of the forum. 

Follow the Victoria Forum Twitter handle for highlights from this weekend’s discussion. This article is also available in French