“Difference” Makes all the Difference

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s Future Forums teamed up with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for a colourful and insightful set of discussions in Halifax. Participants included Foundation Scholars Jamie Snook (2017) and Bob Huish (2004). The group considered the issues of Inclusive Excellence and Engaged leadership in the Canada of today, and tomorrow.



Késa Munroe-Anderson is Manager of Race Relations, Equity, and Inclusion with the Commission cited an African proverb to illustrate the importance of inclusiveness in leaders:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Pascale Fournier, the President and CEO of the Foundation, noted this deep reflection on inclusion is critical to developing more diverse leadership that reflects the Canada of today.

“Canada has changed a lot in 15 years [since the Foundation began awarding scholarships], and the qualities you need as a leader have changed,” she said.

One common theme came into focus during the discussions: that greater diversity and the involvement of different people and ideas is a positive step toward building stronger communities.

Participant Sherrian Garcia said it this way: “We need to view people who are different as an asset, as opposed to seeing anyone who is different as a liability. Then, these people will feel a sense of inclusion, and be part of the community.”

Pam Glode-Desrochers is the Executive Director of the Mi’Kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax. She pointed out the definition of a good leader too often focuses on formal education, and fails to credit other valuable qualities.

“I’ve seen fantastic leaders in our community who have no education. Because, they have what it takes to make good decisions,” she said.

“We have to take a leap of faith together in order to learn new ways of doing things.”

Those in attendance made artwork to illustrate some of their ideas.

Ashlee Cunsolo is Manager of Race Relations and Equity at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She and her group formed a series of large and small birds out of paper to show how leadership can mean different things at different times.

“Often when you look at birds, the biggest one will lead the others and protect them in strong winds. Sometimes when you are a leader you need to be out in front taking the gale-force winds to support those who are coming behind. But you also need to know when it is your turn to rest and get others out in front,” she said.

Participant Kevin Little was part of a group that crafted an image in the form of a quilted blanket to explain how there remains much work to be done to achieve Inclusive Excellence.

“If we are looking at how to be inclusive, and you think of a quilt with the squares representing different communities, in Canada the quilt has a lot of holes in it.”