Respect for Diversity and Inclusion of Migrants in Germany

After welcoming an unprecedented number of refugees and migrants from crises around the world in 2015 and 2016, Germany is working to promote the positive integration and long term success of those migrants. At the same time, waves of populism and right-wing extremism have been felt not only in Germany, but across Europe. Understandably, questions of equal rights, social cohesion, open societies, and respect for diversity are top of mind for many Germans. Canada’s experiences with multiculturalism can help shed light on the way forward.

An eager crowd filled the seats of the large auditorium at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. Colourful posters lined the walls, showcasing pieces of art that have sprung from Canada’s culturally diverse society. The crowd was gathered to learn about Canada and Germany’s experiences with migration and diversity from German sociologist Aladin El-Mafaalani and Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar.

A Respected Voice on Migration

Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar is a highly respected voice on inclusion, diversity, and migration both at home and abroad. As an Iranian immigrant, she has a strong personal connection to the challenges that can come with migration.

Senator Omidvar is the founding Executive Director of the “think-and-do tank” Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University and is currently the Co-Chair at the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Migration. Her book, Flight of Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada was published in 2015, and she was named Nation Builder of the Decade for Citizenship by The Globe and Mail in 2011.

In recognition of her advocacy for the rights of immigrants, she became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011.

Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar speaks to a full house at the Embassy of Canada to Germany.

Strength in Diversity

In a frank and candid address, Senator Omidvar emphasized that diversity and pluralism are Canada’s strengths. While acknowledging that racism and discrimination continue to exist, she explained that the particular history, geography, and immigration policies of Canada have made it a place where difference is more accommodated.

Senator Omidvar recommended open discussion of the challenges that can accompany migration, without fear of political correctness. If we do not have open discussions, she warned, we become blind to the growing trends of hate and various forms of fundamentalism in our societies.

She concluded by sharing Canada’s success in accepting 40,000 Syrian refugees over two years. Encouraging civic engagement with newcomers, she noted, has been the key to positive integration and greater long term success.

Us and Them

The public lecture, “Us and Them: Diversity, Division and a World of Difference”, was organized by the Canadian Embassy in Berlin in conjunction with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and the Bertelsmann Foundation. The lecture was recorded live and featured on the CBC Radio program “Ideas”, hosted by Paul Kennedy.

Senator Ratna Omidvar, sociologist Aladin El-Mafaalani, and Embassy staff.

Canada’s Approach

Immigration continues to be fundamental to Canada’s culture, society, and economy. Inclusion and respect for diversity have been crucial to the empowerment of diverse communities. This approach promotes freedom, economic prosperity, and peace and security, both locally and globally.

“When we embrace our differences and come together to welcome newcomers, we strengthen our communities in enduring ways”

– The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Senator Omidvar’s Canadian message resonated with the full house at the Embassy in Berlin and inspired creative and thoughtful ways to embrace immigration and integration. The Embassy in Berlin looks forward to future collaborations with the Senator on the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Read and share more stories about Canada’s activities around the world - follow Eyes Abroad.