We are so very, very excited to congratulate Ratna Omidvar on being appointed a Member of the Order of Canada!
We think this is a great opportunity to reflect on some of Ratna’s recent thoughts and insights about her experience coming to Canada, and her hopes and dreams for our country.
For those of you who may be new to Ratna, here’s a short bio:
Ratna Omidvar is president of Maytree, a private foundation that promotes equity and prosperity through its policy insights, grants and programs. Under Ratna’s leadership, Maytree has been recognized for its commitment to developing, testing and implementing programs and policy solutions related to immigration, integration and diversity in the workplace, in the boardroom and in public office.
Two recent initiatives have been the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project. Internationally, Maytree is best known for the Cities of Migration project.
Ratna serves as a director of Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance (formerly Toronto City Summit Alliance), the chair of the Board of Directors of TRIEC, and a director of Connect Legal.
In 2006, she was appointed to the Order of Ontario and, in 2010, the Globe and Mail profiled Ratna as its Nation Builder of the Decade for Citizenship.
Last year, Ratna gave the 4th annual June Callwood Lecture at the Toronto Reference Library. Her speech, “A Canadian in the Making,” was of a very personal nature and she chose to write four letters to Canada:
“As I prepared for this year’s lecture, I thought about the thirty years since my arrival in Canada, and how much Canada and I have changed,” explained Ratna. “How much we both are a work in progress…. I’m going to tell you my story in Canada… My story is no different than that of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who choose to make Canada their home. We all have a starring role in the same reality show.”
Read more (PDF) and watch Ratna describe her journey from exile to belonging, from refugee to one of leading social activist creating opportunities for a better Canada.
While Letters to Canada chronicles much of Ratna’s life in Canada, she hasn’t stopped reflecting, wondering and contributing to our country.
Recently, Ratna Omidvar expanded on her hopes for Canada when she spoke about immigration, integration and inclusion at the second Martin Luther King lecture organized by the Koerber Foundation in Hamburg.
Titled “The Next Dream,” Ratna noted that it is now more and more unlikely in countries such as Canada to witness open acts or expressions of racism. But systemic barriers to inclusion still exist. While much has been accomplished in the battle for equality, Dr. King would agree that much still needs to be done. Ratna discussed how one important way to overcome these barriers is to focus on, talk about and learn more about how immigration impacts us positively. That is the only way to get past one’s inherent fear of the new, different and foreign.
Martin Luther King lecture – listen:
In 2012, Ratna’s call to action to all of us in Toronto, and beyond, is to focus on our mutual hopes and dreams, to connect more with each other, to invest in our communities. She asks us all to really focus on the hard but rewarding work of inclusive community engagement.
“So my hope for 2012 is for all of us to get a tad sticky and to put our fingers in the glue.”