How to build an inclusive world

In this time of upheaval, what does the future look like? When we think about marginalized groups in society, and issues of gender, race, and poverty — how do we work toward making a better world? Rinaldo Walcott, Monia Mazigh and Micheal Vonn explore these questions in conversation with Nahlah Ayed.

'Why don't we really go back to our own villages and see who is hungry and who is not?' asks Monia Mazigh

In this time of upheaval, what does the future look like? Micheal Vonn (left), Rinaldo Walcott (centre), and Monia Mazigh (right) talk about the future of identity and belonging with IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed, as part of our Ideas at Stratford series. (

*Originally published on September 15, 2020.

How do we begin to think about making a better world?

So many people are on the outside, looking in at what so many others appear to have: security, identity, acceptance —above all, a decent shot at a good life. People who are marginalized — whether through poverty, skin colour, race, religion, gender identification… they just want what everyone should have.

"We have to bring a new social contract, how we can live together, on what basis. And if … they sold us this idea of 'all the world is a global village,' why don't we really go back to our own villages and see who is hungry and who is not, who is healthy and who is not? How can this government help every village in this big country?" Monia Mazigh tells IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed. She joined panellists Rinaldo Walcott and Micheal Vonn to explore the future of identity and belonging.

But how do we get to this place of inclusiveness? These things — the stuff that makes up the good society — aren't partisan issues of left or versus right. Yet we seem to be having a problem in creating a more fair society. 

"If the most marginalized people become the litmus test for how well our society is doing, that means we have to rethink everything that we do. If the people who are unhoused become the central source to which we think about housing, we would think differently about housing. If the people without jobs become the central force to which we think about employment, we would think differently about employment. If the people without child care are the ones we go to first ... these are all of the kinds of things that the movement Black Lives Matter centre in their politics and in the political organizing. And so they're really calling for a transformation of the culture that we live in," says Rinaldo Walcott., director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.

A sense of belonging must include security— a place to feel safe, according to Micheal Vonn, the CEO at PHS Community Services Society in Vancouver. She argues that having a roof over your head is key to achieving an inclusive future. 

"When we talk about marginalization, sometimes we don't reflect on that being a spatial paradigm. Right? Something is out there, not here close to us. We use all kinds of language when we talk about people who are not being centred. We say they're out of place. My point is that place is real. It is not just a metaphor ... so when you say, well, how are we going to create belonging? You know, you're talking out of your hat unless you're actually talking about a place, a roof, a place you can be a safe. A place to be. And that is no abstract sense of anything. It's the bricks and mortar of how you get to be somewhere."

Guests in this episode:

Monia Mazigh is an academic, author and human rights advocate, and the former National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. She has a PhD in Finance from McGill University. Her memoir, Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar was shortlisted for the Ottawa Book Award. She has also published two novels Mirrors and Mirages and Hope Has Two Daughters. 

Rinaldo Walcott is an associate professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. He has written extensively on race and gender issues, and his most recent book, written with Idil Abdillahi, is BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom.

Micheal Vonn was Policy Director for the BC Civil Liberties Association, and works now as CEO at PHS Community Services Society in Vancouver, which provides housing, healthcare and harm reduction to the needy in Vancouver's Downtown East Side and in Victoria.


*This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.

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