Home > Updates
July 22, 2020
Zain Velji on how Everyone’s Canada uses storytelling to reaffirm the value of pluralism, multiculturalism and immigration.
Tell us about Everyone’s Canada. How would you describe your purpose and what makes you unique?
Everyone’s Canada was created in the summer of 2019 in response to a concerning narrative that was emerging across the country — a narrative that sought to undermine Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism, pluralism, and immigration. Anti-immigrant sentiment, which was being stoked and weaponized by some politicians ahead of the federal election, seemed to be bubbling up across the country.
EC’s response was to share an extremely simple response to this narrative, though one that we sometimes take for granted: Canada is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, or what binds your conscience because Canadian identity isn’t tied to a particular race or ethnicity, but is rather built around a set of aspirations.
What makes our organization unique is our commitment to sharing and uplifting this message through story-telling that highlights diverse perspectives. In 2019, we launched a popular series called #MyCanada, which encouraged Canadians to share their family history and their perspective on what Canadian identity means. The series acted as a reminder that there is no fixed or permanent concept of a Canadian — rather, there are only complex, layered, and competing concepts, all founded upon a dedication to diversity and pluralism.
This simple message seemed to resonate with various individuals and communities, particularly in the midst of what had become a noisy and divisive election. Moving forward, EC remains committed to using storytelling to push back against nascent or existing movements to undermine our collective commitment to multiculturalism in Canada, such as Bill 21 in Quebec, and highlighting ways that Canadians are fighting for a stronger future, such as the ongoing efforts to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
This is a critical moment for commitment and action on anti-black racism. It is prompting crucial conversations about structural inequality and violence that results in the loss of Black lives. How does this relate to the work of Everyone’s Canada?
In line with EC’s focus on storytelling, our organization is currently developing a new podcast series called Black in Canada, which will introduce listeners to different perspectives on the Black experience in Canada. While much of the media is focused on the social upheavals and protests occurring in the United States, EC hopes to highlight the unique and multifaceted ways that anti-Black racism operates in Canada, and the efforts that are underway to combat it.
We are all navigating the pandemic in different ways. What’s a key insight from how Everyone’s Canada is responding to the crisis?
EC has sought to highlight the very concerning and underreported fact that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted racialized communities in Canada. During the early stages of the pandemic, our organization focused on raising awareness about the COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants in Alberta, which predominantly impacted immigrant and racialized communities in the province. Through op-eds, radio interviews, and social media, we aimed to highlight the authorities’ failure to protect vulnerable workers, which we believed too many people were willing to overlook.
This COVID-19 pandemic is a tragic example of how inequity and systemic racism hinder our ability to respond to a health crisis. It offers a reminder of the importance of fighting for an inclusive and equal Canada, one that makes an effort to protect and support marginalized or underrepresented communities.
What’s one big challenge you see facing Canada’s democracy? How are you working on this challenge or what solutions do you propose?
We believe that anti-immigrant sentiment is one of the greatest challenges Canada faces today. This sentiment has emerged despite the fact that immigration is a central component of our country’s history, and key driver of our economic growth today. As a country completely comprised of immigrants and Indigenous people, efforts to undermine immigration can only take the form of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. Only by reaffirming and highlighting the value of multiculturalism, pluralism, and immigration, can our country move forward without descending into divisive and dangerous politics.
Tell us about how Everyone’s Canada is making its work more inclusive and building engagement with different communities. Any tips or lessons to share with others in the sector about decreasing barriers and increasing participation?
EC is committed to uplifting and sharing the work of other groups within the sector, and encourages different communities to reach out for collaborative opportunities. We often receive emails from other groups, asking us to highlight or share their work on social media, encouraging our followers to get involved.
Are there specific requests that Everyone’s Canada has for the broader sector? Things you need help with, problems you’re trying to solve or wishes you have?
If you have a story to tell we would love to hear it from you. We are trying to grow our base of individuals to be profiled. And your story just needs to be your story – what does it mean to be Canadian? What is your ambition for Canada? And how would you describe the values of multiculturalism and diversity today.
For people looking to engage with you, how can they get involved? Who can they contact?
Everyone’s Canada challenges an emerging narrative in Canada that undermines our commitment to multiculturalism, pluralism, and immigration. A narrative that claims that Canada only belongs to those of a certain background and experience, preventing many Canadians from calling this country home.
This is an unprecedented moment for democracy in Canada so we created Sector Spotlight to learn about how leading practitioners are responding to it. Have ideas for our next Sector Spotlight? Get in touch!
Zain Velji, Co-Founder of Everyone's Canada
A strategist, business-owner, and community volunteer, Zain Velji is Vice President, Strategy and Partner at Northweather, a strategy and technology firm. Zain was co-creator and host of the highly-rated political podcast, The Strategists, which dissected the strategies of political campaigns and parties and was the inspiration of the CBC Television and Radio panel of the same name. In 2017, Zain managed the re-election campaign for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.