Sunday December 11, 2016

What do we actually mean by "diversity"?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference with his cabinet after they were sworn-in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Wednesday, November 4, 2015.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference with his cabinet after they were sworn-in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Wednesday, November 4, 2015. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Listen 40:21

A little more than a year ago, Prime Minister Trudeau invoked the principle of diversity in assembling his cabinet. 

Because, as he said in the soundbite of the year, it was 2015.

It's been a different story throughout the world in 2016. A backlash against immigration helped spur the Brexit forces to victory in a British referendum, and the xenophobic far-right in Europe is on a populist upswing in Europe. And then there was the victory of Donald Trump in the US election a month ago. Whether that victory was because of, or in spite of, his apparent xenophobia and misogyny, is still a matter of debate.

Meanwhile, we Canadians pat ourselves on our backs for our diversity. But even here, there is, well, a diversity of opinion on the virtues of diversity. Alt-right flyers decrying political correctness and immigration showing up in Toronto…anti-immigration flyers turning up at a rally in Edmonton…a Conservative leadership candidate proposing a test of so-called Canadian values to determine whether prospective immigrants are fit to be granted citizenship. 

And what are we talking about when we talk about diversity in the first place. Is it multiculturalism? Is it identity politicis? Is it an attitude? Is it a description of demographics? Is it a lived experience? Is it an official policy? Is it a goal? 

Michael discusses the meaning, politics and practice of diversity with three guests.

Cindy Blackstock is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and she's the director of Equity and Diversity with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Shakil Choudhury is an award-winning racial justice educator and the author of a new book called Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us Vs. Them.

Desmond Cole is a freelance journalist and activist who writes a column for the Toronto star and hosts a weekly radio program in Toronto. 

Click the 'play' button above to hear the panel.