Winter Newsletter – Holiday Edition

CEO InSight

This fall has been destabilizing. With the results of the American presidential election results, a number of urgent questions and concerns pertaining to social equity have been raised. As Canadians, we’re not centralized in the most heated debates and public unrest, but we must recognize that we’re not immune from the attitudes, and in some instances, violent actions. Recent events have shone a light on what many people have always known – the benefits of this country are not evenly shared. We are asking ourselves, how we can respond to the challenges of discrimination and racism in this country, both as individuals and as organizations. This holiday season, let’s carve out time for celebration and critical reflection.

Fortunately at Inspirit Foundation, critical reflection is integral to the work we do every day. We’re constantly engaged in conversations and initiatives addressing reconciliation, Islamophobia, and equity overall. We’re concerned about the impact of recent events on all people living in Canada, especially those who have been historically marginalized. As I’m gearing up to celebrate the holidays safely at home with my family and friends, I’m thinking of Colten Boushie and his bereaved family, I’m thinking about what I heard at the panel discussion, How to be an Ally: Islamophobia at the Intersections, from the mother with a son my son’s age. The difference is that her son has been on the no-fly list since he was seven, and her biggest fear is not that he might get bullied on his way home from the library, but that he is pulled over by the police. I’m thinking about the nearly 10 million people in Canada that say they have experienced discrimination based on their race/ethnicity or religion/spirituality.

I’m also reflecting on the individual acts of compassion, empathy and courage that are happening in our communities, in our public spaces, in our social media feeds.

These are difficult issues to contemplate, especially during what should be a festive time of year, but we must create space for them. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing this past quarter. Our change leaders, board, and staff team have all been diligently addressing issues of social equity. Our board members Caro Loutfi and Salima Ebrahim have been publicly recognized for their leadership and engagement of other young civic leaders. Jay Pitter, our Director of Engagement, has been travelling across the country with her award-nominated book Subdivided, leading critically important equity-based placemaking conversations. We were proud to be a founding funder in The Sidra Project, a virtual reality project deepening our understanding and empathy of the refugee experience. And while deepening collaborations with our partners across the country, I stopped in Victoria to deliver a Walrus Talk about how institutions need to share power with young leaders. These are just a few examples of the ways that we’re individually and collectively responding to the challenges of this moment.

Although this season likely finds you grappling with difficult issues, which demand our vigilance, there is almost always cause for celebration and gratitude. A gift I received decades ago as a young change leader is the belief that people are good and systems can change. As you look forward into the coming year I hope you will join me in reflecting on how each of us can use our influence to create the world we would like to see.

Happy New Year!

Andrea Nemtin
President and CEO

Board Member InFocus: Caro Loutfi + Salima Ebrahim

Our board members provide the guidance andsupport needed to move our organization forward.This month, we’re celebrating Caro Loutfi and Salima Ebrahim.

Caro Loutfi

Caro Loutfi is the new co-chair of our granting committee. Both on and off the board she is a compelling voice for youth engagement. She recently spoke to VICE about engaging and lowering barriers for young people to shape our democratic process and wrote for the Huffington Post about what the American election means for youth.

Salima Ebrahim

Salima Ebrahim is the Executive Director of the Banff Forum, an annual conference exploring key public policy issues in Canada. She brings deep expertise to our board as Chair of the government relations committee. Salima is known for her leadership in public service and her community. Most recently, she was named one of Edmonton’s Top 40 under 40.

Grantee InFocus: The Sidra Project

Grantee InFocus - Winter Newsletter

We are very proud of all our incredible grantees passionately and powerfully creating more inclusion across Canada. In this issue, we’re pleased to introduce you to The Sidra Project.
We’re very excited to be one of the founding funders supporting The Sidra Project, a collaboration between the United Nations and Artscape to increase support for refugee settlement efforts in Canada. This project combines virtual reality experience with community engagement. If you’re in Toronto, you can register for a free screening here.

Staff InFocus: Jay Pitter

Many of our staff contribute to our goals of creating inclusion both within and outside the foundation. One of Inspirit’s strategic goals is to shape public conversation, which Jay Pitter, Director of Stakeholder Engagement, has exemplified for two decades.
In the last year, Jay Pitter has co-edited and published Subdivided: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity,
examining how we build inclusive and just cities. Since then, the book has been shortlisted for the Ontario Speaker Book Award and featured in the Globe and Mail, NOW Magazine, and Canadian Architect. She’s been busy training civic leaders, urban planners, and scholars across the country, and was one of two authors selected to be interviewed by Premier Wynne at the Word on the Street Festival. Jay has also been sharing key insights on placemaking and social equity in workshops and on panels at Ontario Professional Planners Institute’s Symposium, NXT City, and YouthREX, with our Research and Evaluation Coordinator Sanjeev Timana. You might have also recently seen or heard Jay on The Agenda or Metro Morning.

Additional Highlights

  • Change leaders started important conversations and shared powerful ideas across the country in places like 6 Degrees, where Inspirit was a partner in selecting and supporting the 2016 cohort of Junior Fellows.
  • On the road to fully investing our assets for positive change, we’ve just made our latest investment: Artscape Launchpad. We’re honoured to support this innovative space enabling and supporting diverse artists.
  • Our President and CEO Andrea Nemtin recently delivered a Walrus Talk compelling institutions to meaningfully share space with young leaders shaping the future of our country.

Inspiring Resources

Trudeau reassures First Nations of commitment to deliver on promises
by Gloria Galloway

Aboriginal students do better with Aboriginal Mentors
by Lynn Desjardins

Why do discussions about carding ignore the experiences of women and trans people?
by Fathima Cader and Brittany-Andrew Amofah

How are refugee’s new life in Canada going just one year after arriving?
by Ginella Massa

A whale of a fight: Inuit seek to protect their food source
by Corey Mintz names “xenophobia” word of the year
by Leanne Italie

Ginella Massa becomes first hijab-wearing journalist to anchor a major Canadian newscast
by Huffington Post Canada

The trouble with philanthropy is that money can’t buy equality
by Courtney Martin

Change Leader InFocus: Casey Mecija

Our change leaders live and experience the issues Inspirit Foundation focuses on and share invaluable ideas and perspectives. As a PhD student at the University of Toronto in the Women and Gender studies program, a musician, an arts educator, CBC radio host of The Doc Project, and an award-winning filmmaker screened internationally and at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Casey addresses important conversations about identity, race, and prejudice. Recently, she talked to VICE and The Fader and shared the video for “Songs that Mark our Words,” a song exploring queerness, diaspora, and immigration. We first met Casey in May and are grateful to have her in our community.