In May, the 2015-17 Jeanne Sauvé Fellows visited Canada’s National Capital Region to meet with different stakeholders – from parliamentarians to university professors to civil society actors – in order to learn from a diverse group of public leaders as well as to present their position paper on refugee integration, the theme of their team project.

Being in Ottawa also exposed the international cohort of Fellows to Canadian governance, thought leadership and public leadership through a unique lens. For photos of their Ottawa trip, click here.

Here is a summary of their Ottawa experience, in the Fellows’ own words:

May 3

The Fellows’ first meeting was with Mark Holland, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions. Mr. Holland shared four key principles that a leader should live by: never let anyone define who you are; always have patience, persistence and self-confidence; act with kindness and generosity; and be “irrationally reasonable”. Mr. Holland then provided insight into the relationship between NGOs, government and civic stakeholders.

That encounter was followed by an equally inspiring meeting with journalism professor Andrew Cohen, who started his presentation by sharing with us that Canada – as one of the most liberal countries in the world – is currently struggling with complacency. By understanding the importance of obligations and responsibility that comes with its citizenship, Prof. Cohen argued that Canadians and newcomers alike would have a better chance of integrating into society. According to Prof. Cohen, civic education and better governance of integration policies are key to a successful civil society.

The Fellows then visited the beautiful Rideau Hall grounds and met with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. Mr. Johnston shared his motto – CONTEMPLARE MELIORA – meaning to “envisage a better worlds”, which refers to his belief in the abilities of all Canadians to create a smarter, more caring nation and contribute to a fairer, more just world. During our meeting, he spoke about his mandate on strengthening the pillars of learning and innovation, philanthropy and volunteerism, and families and children, as well as launching a number of major programs, including My Giving Moment and the Governor General’s Innovation Awards.

Next came a session with the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, one of Canada’s longest-serving public servants. Minister Goodale led an interesting discussion touching on several issues dear to our hearts: refugee integration, indigenous wellbeing in Canada, and his vision to create a collaborative approach to preventing violent extremism. The Fellows were struck by Mr. Goodale’s emphasis on localized, community-based solutions to a broad swathe of issues, and hope to take him up on his invitation for future collaborations.

May 4

On Wednesday, the Fellows had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Auget, who leads Reconciliation and Research at the First Nations Family and Child Caring Society of Canada. In a landmark ruling announced last January, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the Canadian government to be racially discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children. This was case that was filed almost a decade ago (2007) by the First Nations Family & Caring Society of Canada. Ms. Auget and her team took time to share with us the history of the Caring Society, the reason they filed the case, and the implications of the recent ruling. It was an inspiring session in which we learned about Jordan’s Principle, Martha’s Dream and the “I am a Witness” campaign. The Fellows thoroughly impressed with the determination and commitment of the Caring Society to build a better Canada, by standing with First Nations children and families to ensure equal opportunities for all to succeed.

Later that morning, the Fellows were back to Rideau Hall, where we met Scott Haldane, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rideau Hall Foundation. The encounter gave us a unique opportunity to learn about the role of civil society organizations in making Canada a better and more caring nation. Mr. Haldane spoke about the role of the Rideau Hall Foundation in incorporating traditional indigenous worldviews and perspectives by enhancing indigenous education through co-creation.

That afternoon, the Fellows returned to Parliament Hill, where we met with the Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. In a warm and candid style, Minister Bennett reflected on her incredibly ambitious mandate: working to set right deep historical wrongs at the core of Canada’s national identity and experience. She shared her excitement around working with colleagues across every area of government, and for partnering with civil society. She talked about the challenge of building collaborative relationships where trust has been broken, and shared her appreciation for the many indigenous advocates who have been stepping forward to work in partnership with her ministry.

After a brief time spent sitting in on Question Period, the Fellows met with the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for a very brief encounter (on account of a parliamentary vote). The meeting was short but nonetheless useful in terms of the insights it gave into important global issues such as climate change and the environment. In terms of the link to our team project, the connection to refugees was clear. Indeed, climate change may end up increasing refugee flows to more developed countries like Canada, which have more secure food and water sources. Minister McKenna left us with a short personal message: enjoy the last few months at Sauvé House in Montreal!

The Fellows then met with the Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship – an encounter that proved essential to our team project on refugee integration. This was an opportunity to present and discuss our experience over the past five months, during which time substantial dialogue took place with activists, grassroots organizations, academics, international organizations and politicians. Before Minister McCallum, our policy subgroup presented its draft policy paper on refugee integration “How to do better, how to do more“, which puts forth key recommendations for immigration policy reform. Not only was the Canadian context was discussed during this encounter, but also the global and European refugee crisis. Following a dynamic exchange, Minister McCallum invited us to stay in contact with his office and his senior policy team. The aforementioned policy document will be updated based on input from federal stakeholders as well as the Fellow’s upcoming policy panel on June 7. The final Policy Paper will be shared with the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship this summer.

May 5

The Fellows started the day with a leadership encounter with Tim Brodhead, professor at the University of Waterloo and former Jeanne Sauvé Foundation board member. By connecting the dots through his diverse experiences spanning international development to social innovation management, Mr. Brodhead spoke directly to nearly each of our field of work. He emphasized the importance of putting aside the top-down world view of “development” and accepting our role in the social change space as one of facilitator and collaborator, in ways that respect the dignity and values of the communities being served.

That inspiring discussion was followed by another trip to Parliament Hill, where the Fellows met with the Honourable Tony Clement, Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs. This was a refreshing experience for us, after having been in a series of meetings with representatives of the Liberal Party, to hear different perspectives from the current Canadian administration. Mr. Clement recognized the fact that his role has been to criticize the government in such a way that it will provide space for improvement, although he genuinely expressed his appreciation of the meaningful things that the current administration has accomplished in the last 6 months.

The final encounter of the day was with columnist and author Dr. Sheema Khan, the United Nations Association in Canada organization and Citizens for Public Justice. Dr. Khan, a Canadian hockey mom, researcher, developer, inventor and coach, spoke briefly about writing on the intersection of culture and religion in the contemporary social landscape. Underlining that there is no clash of civilization today, but there is a specific need to engage and educate Canadians about the rich diversity of people living in this country. Throughout the discussion, representative from UNAC and Citizens for Public Justice also presented their programs, initiatives and ideas to promote global citizenry.

May 11

The following week, the Fellows left Montreal for one last day in Ottawa. We started the day with the Honourable Justice Rosalie Abella, who stressed the importance of the legal profession in public leadership and in defending human rights. She gave us insight into how the Supreme Court of Canada operates and noted that even though large-scale decisions of national importance rest on her and her fellow eight justices’ shoulders, they do get along quite well. When asked why this was the case, she emphasized the importance of gender balance in teams to provide a diversity of opinions and approaches.

And last but certainly not least, the Fellows met with Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. During his enriching encounter, Mr. Neve spoke of the fundamental principles of human rights, touching on issues related to grass roots organizations, global collaboration, multilateralism, gender equality and indigenous peoples’ rights. In his talk, he stated that human rights promises remain empty without strong and effective policy reform. He further added that there is urgency, value and immense possibility for Canada to become a nation that fully protects and promotes human rights. Mr. Neve ended the discussion by saying that it is up to us, as young leaders, to effect those changes in the future.

The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation would like thank Parliamentary Secretary Mark Holland, Professor Andrew Cohen, His Excellency the Rt Hon. Governor General David Johnston, the generous staff at Rideau Hall and Impact Hub Ottawa, the Hon. Ralph Goodale, Andrea Auger from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Scott Haldane from the Rideau Hall Foundation, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, the Hon. Catherine McKenna, the Hon. John McCallum, Professor Tim Brodhead, the Hon. Tony Clement, Dr. Sheema Khan, the United Nations Association in Canada, Citizens for Public Justice, Alex Neve from Amnesty International Canada and the Hon. Rosalie Abella for their generosity, insights and public service.

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