What you see happening in Ukraine at the moment is what happened in Tony’s birth country of Lebanon. After surviving 15 years of civil war, Tony arrived in Canada in his early 20’s with no family or friends by his side. After 35 years in his host country, Tony built an amazing life for himself and is grateful for the promising future he sees for his children.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Tony’s has made it his mission to ensure that other immigrants have the same privilege he had. Just like his employer, National Bank of Canada, Tony is committed to ensuring everyone has a fair opportunity at the Bank and in society at large.
In his own words; “I feel like I owe a huge debt to this amazing society who took me in, that I can never pay back. That is why 19 years ago, I joined the board of directors of the Cedar Cancer Foundation, which was founded by the Lebanese community 56 years ago. I see it as a great gift to my host society, and a way to thank everyone who made me feel welcome.”
Ranjita was born & raised in Montreal and values her exposure to a myriad of cultures, including her own Indian heritage. In addition to her passion for learning from new cultures, Ranjita’s love for science was evident from an early age. She now holds a PhD in Experimental Medicine in oncology research from McGill. For the past 14 years, Ranjita raised through the ranks of Pfizer Canada where she started as a Fellow in Health Economics & Outcomes Research, until she became the Commercial Director for Promoted Brands in the Hospital Business. This continued appetite for personal growth through the accumulation of diverse experiences is a hunger she tries to instill in her three children every single day.
Although she absolutely loves the challenge of working in her field, she is especially proud of her involvement with the DEI group at Pfizer Canada. Three years ago, Ranjita started a cross-functional group of twenty-five colleagues to lead diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. Their DE&I strategy is built upon three pillars and aligned with the following workstreams: culture, colleagues, and external partnerships. The group raises awareness and educates colleagues about DE&I challenges and initiatives. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all colleagues feel seen, heard, free to be their true selves, and experience a sense of belonging. “Our quest to become a more inclusive, equitable and diverse workplace started before the pandemic. Even Pfizer’s role in fighting COVID-19 didn’t slow down our progress; the team and the organization never lost focus on the importance of DE&I to help better meet the needs of the patients and communities we serve.”
Multifaceted and accomplished, Frank Baylis’ inspiration and perspective is strongly influenced by his mother.
Over 50 years ago, Gloria Baylis applied for a position as a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal. At the time, she was deceived into thinking the position had been filled. Upon discovering that this post was still open, she suspected that the colour of her skin (she is of Barbadian origin) might be the cause of this disinterest. She decided to stand up for what is right and courageously took on and won a 12-year court battle based on the Quebec Act Respecting Discrimination in Employment.
Bearing witness to racial discrimination in his formative years inspired Frank to champion a society that is free and fair to all its citizens, and most importantly, does not put one group against the other.
Frank believes that differences make us stronger, a conviction he has lived by in every iteration of his multifaceted career, as President of Baylis Medical, as a Liberal MP for Pierrefonds-Dollard, as co-founder and co-owner of OME Group, and as a producer with the company Walk of Fame Entertainment. Frank serves his community by generously sharing his unique knowledge and skillsets by sitting on the board of directors of the West Island Black Community Association, OnRock and Projet Communautaire de Pierrefonds, three community associations that serve low-income families.
Of Moroccan-Jewish origin, Kathia Benchetrit was born in Canada and raised in a very religious and traditional environment. When she and her family left the country to live in Asia, Kathia was exposed to a new culture and new experiences that opened her mind to the world. Living and studying abroad had a profound impact on her view of people. At the age of 17, Kathia returned to Quebec with an enriched experience where she graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy.
Kathia joined RBC during her university years. Twenty-four years later, she is still there! For over 10 years, Kathia has led employee resource groups including LGBTQ+ Allies and Generactions - which provides mentoring for younger employees, among others. Kathia is generous with her time and is very involved with the Bank's younger employees. As a visible minority woman, she wants to inspire them to pursue their careers at RBC.
Diversity and inclusion is a cornerstone of the bank's values, and it is in this spirit that Kathia has been involved in a 10-employee focus group to review RBC's diversity and inclusion policies in Quebec. While the bank has made significant progress over the past few years, this remains an ongoing effort as D&I is central to RBC. The reflection task force will drive the implementation of direct measures to address issues of inequality and systemic bias.
Since 2013, Julian Felipe Hernandez Gama and his wife have been preparing to come to Canada. That's when they started taking French courses. Originally from Colombia, Julian was a graphic designer, videographer and photographer in his country, while his wife had a Kumon franchise. However, the volatile situation in his country remained worrisome and it was under the Quebec experience program that the couple finally arrived in Quebec in September 2017. After 18 months of studying computer graphics at the Calixa-Lavallée vocational training center, a one-month internship and four months of job postings, Julian finally joined the Spinelli team in 2019 as a graphic designer.
From the start, Julian received a very warm welcome from the Spinelli team. Although his French was a bit "rough" when he arrived, his colleagues were encouraging, and supported him in his development. Julian feels very fortunate to have joined such an inclusive work environment. His co-workers, who come from many different backgrounds, are an excellent representation of the diversity found on the West Island.
The pride of working for a company that is celebrating its centennial this year is quickly evident in Julian's smile when he talks about his colleagues and his employer. "I am so happy here," he says in excellent French.
Originally from Mauritius, a small island east of Madagascar, Valerie Kim came to Canada at the age 18 to study at Concordia University. Although it was meant to be a short stay, Valerie quickly fell in love with Montreal and felt at home right from the start. She studied business and French, but it was her love of people that brought her into her first Human Resource role as a recruiter.
Valerie joined Broccolini almost 15 years ago and she is proud to be one of the first women named into a senior leadership role 5 years ago. The world of construction remains a predominantly male work environment, but several initiatives have been put in place at Broccolini over the years to ensure that everyone feels welcome, respected, and heard. On that front, Valerie leads the charge. “I feel I am an advocate for all our employees whose needs and ideas have historically been underrepresented which includes women, LGBTQ2+ employees, single parents, immigrants, individuals with disabilities, and any other voice which needs to be heard. My goal is to make sure our leaders are making inclusive decisions so that our employees feel comfortable being themselves all day, every day and give the best of themselves.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but Valerie has seen Broccolini make huge strides on that front over the years thanks to their open-minded culture and its leaders who are willing to listen and act. The value placed on diversity and inclusion is paramount to continued success and Valerie is energized by being at the heart of it. She thrives on engaging with those who are ready to shake up the norm and be innovative. “Interacting daily with employees who hold different perspectives promotes diversity of thought which, in turn, elevates everyone’s experience. There is so much we can learn from others whose experiences are different from our own.”
Valerie is proud to see the increase in the number of hires from different industries, with different backgrounds and with different experiences at Broccolini. She feels privileged to be able to sponsor Broccolini’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs and ensure all leaders “walk the talk”. “The future is limitless when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and I am excited to see what kind of positive impact we can continue to make in the lives of our employees and our community.”
At 19 years old, Martine Roy was fired from the Canadian army for being gay. This event had a devastating impact on her self-esteem, but at the same time, shaped who she became; a staunch advocate for the LGBTQ2+ community.
Along with seven other leaders from the business community, Martine co-founded Pride at Work Canada, a Toronto-based organization that inspires employers to create work environments that celebrate all staff members, regardless of their gender expression, identity or sexual orientation. Martine also led the class action suit that ended with a $145 million settlement as well as an apology from the federal government in 2017, and is now Chair of the Board of Directors of the LGBT Purge Fund. Martine invests her time and energy both inside and outside the workplace while focusing on far reaching projects to ensure that no one ever experiences what she went through in her formative years.
Martine currently holds the position of Regional Manager, LGBTQ2+ Business Development Quebec & Eastern Canada for the TD Bank. Through her work, Martine supports LGBTQ2+ initiatives and entrepreneurs to maximize their reach and success in their various projects. She is particularly proud to work for TD; the first Canadian financial institution to offer spousal benefits to its employees in a same-sex relationship, as well as covering affirmative surgeries for its employees and their family.
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