Diversity and inclusiveness are often used synonymously, but in reality, they are two distinct terms. Diversity is by default, while inclusiveness is a choice. As we come off the heels of Black History Month and the Lunar New Year, I thought it would be an opportune time to address the importance of commemorating our diverse celebrations.

As a proud Mississaugan, I am thrilled to share that our city is comprised of 52 per cent visible minorities, with a significant proportion born outside of Canada. We are blessed to have over 240 ethnic groups speaking over 130 languages. We have over four dozen major festivals in our city, along with countless places of worship. All of this makes us absolutely unique, as we are one of the few communities having this level of diversity.

This brings me to my first point. Commemorating specific celebrations allows us to shine a particular spotlight on the accomplishments, history and culture of our very diverse neighbours, which are often overlooked in our daily lives.

Second, we commemorate specific celebrations because knowledge promotes tolerance and generates respect for one another. Through parades, seminars, heritage month celebrations and cooking classes, we are better able to understand what each community has to offer and what we may learn from them, opening the door for the best of the best.

After all, the more voices that are at the table, the more informed our decision-making becomes, and the better our society is transformed for all. We are able to look closer and think bigger and become part of each other’s heritage. A 2017 report from researchers from the University of Waterloo stated that a one per cent increase in diversity in Canadian workplaces lead to an average increase of 2.4 per cent in revenue and 0.5 per cent in productivity.

In our community, diversity is by default, but I’ve made conscious choices to be inclusive, fostering a sense of belonging as the outcome. Commemorating our diverse celebrations helps us reach this sense of “belonging.” Let us all strive to ensure that everyone around us feels included, and can contribute to a better Ontario each day.