We’re pleased to announce that MOSAIC has been honoured as the 2016 recipient of the Renate Shearer Award. The award, sponsored by the BC Human Rights Clinic and the United Nations Association in Canada, was handed out Thursday, December 8th.
Renate Shearer was a founder of a community multilingual information service which became one of the pillars that formed MOSAIC in 1976. Shearer came to North America as a refugee from Nazi Germany, and devoted her career to working with, and advocating for multiple community causes including co-chairing the Solidarity Coalition, developing a downtown detox centre, and helping to found the BC Human Rights Coalition.
Accepting the award on behalf of MOSAIC, Eyob Naizghi, Executive Director, noted, “MOSAIC is built on the past work of visionary people like Renate Shearer. With a vision of ‘Empowering newcomers to fully participate in Canadian society’, the values of Inclusion, Integrity, Innovation and Commitment have guided MOSAIC to making a difference in the society both through direct service to clients and engaging policy makers in advocacy.”
Yesterday’s event was humbling, honouring and inspirational. Many long-time friends joined MOSAIC during this honour including Senator Mobina Jaffer, Senator of BC, Minister Suzanne Anton, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Patsy George, Honourary Director of UNAC-Vancouver and a recipient of Order of Canada, George Somerwill, Co-President of the Board of UNAC-Vancouver, Ed MaCauley, President of the Board of BC Human Rights Clinic and Courtney Szto, Past Co-President of the UNAC-Vancouver.
Thank you, Patsy George, for your kind words. It is always nice to be in the company of friends and associates while your work is being recognized!
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of MOSAIC, it is my great pleasure to accept this special annual award, the Renate Shearer – looking at the past recipients of the award, it is indeed an honour for MOSAIC to be included among the best of the community leaders who fight hard and fast for justice and inclusion – Community leaders, true to Renate Shearer’s values, who strive to build inclusive communities.
MOSAIC has been recognized many times in the past. But this award is a special acknowledgement for all of us at MOSAIC. Allow me to attempt to elaborate what I mean without boring you.
Foremost this award is taking place at a time when MOSAIC is celebrating its 40th anniversary of building communities. Although we have been celebrating for the last 6 months with fun fare, this award makes it even a sweeter celebration.
What makes it special – the award is named to honour Renate Shearer, a person very closely associated with MOSAIC. Her hand prints are in the DNA of MOSAIC. 42 years ago Renate founded the Multilingual Social Services organization to support immigrants and refugees, who face language, cultural and systemic barriers, one of the two organizations that amalgamated in 1976 to form the present day MOSAIC.
It is equally special recognition for MOSAIC because it is taken place at a time of world refugee crisis unparalleled in my life time, and where MOSAIC played a crucial leadership role locally to galvanize communities and policy makers. In 2015/16, MOSAIC established the refugee readiness fund to assist with their settlement and integration into the local communities. This is not the only time MOSAIC stepped up its support to refugees. In the middle of the winter of 1997, MOSAIC formed a demonstration refugee camp at Victoria Park to advocate for refugee claimants access to income security.
On a personal note, I remember Renate, like most of you, through the early 1980’s years of activism that engaged and mobilized the public for social justice; as a new UBC grad student, I particularly remember her work with the Solidarity Coalition rally of 1983 (who could forget the solidarity coalition). I am sure she would be pleased to see MOSAIC’S activities around the refugee population, and other social justice issues.
At an organizational level, it is important to note that Renate Shearer’s work was recognized posthumously in 1988 by the MOSAIC Human Rights Award, an award that recognizes individuals and organizations who made a difference on issues of diversity and multiculturalism or contributed to the welcoming of immigrants/refugees.
What else makes this award even more special? Well, MOSAIC is being recognized by reputable community driven organizations, who are committed to social justice, the UNA and the Community Legal Assistance Society, and this to commemorate the annual International Human Rights Day which has similar principles to the MOSAIC’s Human Rights Award.
All these to simply say we greatly appreciate the organizers for selecting MOSAIC as the recipient of the 2016 Renate Shearer Award. We are very thankful.
Allow me to say few words about the organization you have so chosen to recognize with this esteemed award. MOSAIC is built on the past work of visionary people like Renate Shearer. With a vision of “Empowering newcomers to fully participate in Canadian society”, the values of Inclusion, Integrity, Innovation and Commitment have guided MOSAIC to making a difference in the society both through direct service to clients and engaging policy makers in advocacy.
MOSAIC operates out of 12 locations in the Lower Mainland with more than 300 staff and over 600 Volunteers, offering over 44 programs and services for immigrants and refugees that range from settlement information in the first language of the communities, Interpretation and Translation through 250 free-lance language consultants, English language instruction, employment support services, advocacy on poverty law, domestic and other forms of violence prevention, community development initiatives and engaging employers and more …
As a CARF accredited organization, we strive for quality client-centered services for our communities. Considering that language and culture are significant barriers for our clients’ participation in society, it is imperative that MOSAIC has a human resource capacity that reflects the diversity of our communities. Hence our staffs as our biggest asset speak close to 30 languages. If we include the freelance community interpreters and translators, we can add up another 65 languages. At the Governance level, MOSAIC makes every effort the Board of Directors composition reflects this basic principle of diversity and inclusion.
But what makes MOSAIC unique, as I have indicated earlier, is we are not only about service delivery. If you read our mission statement it gives the “how” we leave up to our vision of full participation of newcomers. Besides the client-centered service delivery, MOSAIC “… engages in community building and advocacy …” to facilitate meaningful participation of immigrants and refugees in Canadian society.
I have already given some examples of advocacy work of MOSAIC, and I can add more, but in the interest of time, I want to stress that MOSAIC is about engaging communities and institutions for change, systemic changes. We do not do this alone. We partner with many organizations and coalitions to impact changes that would make lasting difference in people’s lives, particularly on inclusion and diversity of immigrants and refugees. MOSAIC staff participates, in about 65 local, provincial and national tables and coalitions all pulling together for different social justice issues. To name a few: First Call of BC, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Vancouver Healthy Cities for All, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Immigrant Partnership Initiatives, the Refugee Readiness Table, the Access to Justice BC Leadership group are few of the strategic tables. Over the years, and based on MOSAIC’s strategic direction, the organization has evolved as the “go to” place for policy and practice innovation and engagement by government and parastatal institutions, and networks. We believe that it is the systemic societal engagement that will make Canada stand out as a “welcoming community” and inclusive place for all. And considering the global political wind presently blowing, a wind of fear and divisiveness, we will need more of us to pull hands to mobilize our communities for trust, peace and unity.
To leverage our strategic vision of “inclusivity”, we established a team of trainers in Intercultural Competency for external and internal facilitation. This is a fee-based service that employers and organizations will have an opportunity to reflect on their beliefs, values, and practices of inclusion and diversity.
In conclusion, and looking to the future, what does this recognition and acknowledgement mean to MOSAIC?
Considering the award is named after Renate Shearer, an activist refugee and founding member of MOSAIC, it is indeed a responsibility to continue our championship of social justice issues with our partners – informing and engaging the public and policy makers on issues that affect communities. Not only raising them as issues but be part of the solution to making Canada a welcoming and inclusive place for all. Moreover, it is also a reminder to all MOSAIC members that every person that comes through our doors should be welcomed and treated with the at most respect. It is a call to elevate our services to communities and to the public.
Once again, I thank the two sisterly/brotherly organizations for the honour they have bestowed on MOSAIC, and I like to congratulate the nomination committee for making a great decision – choosing MOSAIC as the recipient of this prestigious award. And on this occasion, I also like to congratulate the MOSAIC family for a well-deserved recognition.
Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the evening!
Renate Shearer’s work was recognized posthumously in 1988 by the MOSAIC Human Rights Award, an award that recognizes individuals and organizations who made a difference on issues of diversity and multiculturalism or contributed to the welcoming of immigrants/refugees.