November 24, 2005
Those of you who are familiar with this website and know a little
more about me know that I have had a profound interest in people
from other cultures for a long time. Learning different languages
naturally went hand in hand with this cultural curiosity.
Ever since I was a child I have tried to make a connection with
people from other places, and my arrival in Toronto just over 19
years ago was one of the most eye-opening experiences I ever had,
simply because all of a sudden I was dropped into this most multicultural
of cities. Suddenly I was surrounded by people from all over the
world - what an amazing change from my experience growing up in
my ethnically homogeneous little country town in Austria.
Throughout the last 19 years in Toronto I have truly come to enjoy
and embrace diversity, and in my full-time business, www.textronics.com,
a language and translation services company, I have the opportunity
to work with people from all over the world.
On November 18, 2005 Textronics
organized a breakfast event which was themed “New
Canadians – The Essential Business Asset”.
We held this event jointly with Skills
for Change, a well-known Toronto immigrant settlement organization
that helps New Canadians find jobs and adjust to the Canadian workplace.
This joint event was intended to recognize the great collaboration
between Textronics and Skills for Change which has successfully
placed a number of SfC-trained New Canadians with Textronics. The
Toronto Board of Trade
actually facilitated this connection when they put me at the
same table at a networking luncheon last year with David Hughes,
Administration Manager at Skills for Change, which gave me a chance
to learn about this wonderful organization.
We also celebrated the fact that Textronics has been in business
for 15 years, and the contribution of Textronics’ team members,
most of whom are New Canadians and came to us through Skills for
Change. Our team at Textronics today includes individuals from China,
Russia, Pakistan, Mexico, Ethiopia and Austria, and our multi-lingual,
multi-cultural workplace experience has become one of our key success
Our multi-cultural team with Bruce
Bell (4th from left)
After David's welcome, our breakfast event was kicked off by a
humorous ice-breaking session presented by “Dr. Giggles”,
Nelson Briceno from Skills for Change, who made us stretch, practice
laughing and taught us some basic salsa moves. A nice way of waking
people up on a cold November morning....
With an appropriately warmed up crowd, Jane Cullingworth from Skills
for Change gave us an overview of SfC services, and Michael Small,
co-founder of the IBM Visible Minority Council, emphasized the importance
of integrating New Canadians into our workplaces. In light of recent
events in Europe (i.e. the riots all over France) many of us realize
the critical importance of successful immigrant integration.
Last but not least, the entire team at Textronics had a chance
to speak about their immigrant experiences. Starting with myself,
who came to Toronto from Europe more than 19 years ago, we continued
with 4 other team members, Munira, Olga, Vanessa and Khurram, who
have all been in Canada for a relatively short time. They all talked
about the difficulties that immigrants generally face when they
come to Toronto and want to enter the workforce. The importance
of Skills for Change as an organization who makes this transition
much smoother became plainly obvious in the light of these real-life
experiences of these New Canadians.
The event was well attended by people from organizations such as
the Royal Bank, IBM Canada, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Board
of Trade, Rogers Communications, Alliance Atlantis Communications,
CGA Ontario and many more. Telelatino, a local Latin television
station, recorded the event and will feature it later this month.
The positive feedback has encouraged us to look into additional
ways of promoting newcomer talent and diversity in Toronto.
In addition to the economic and business-related contributions
that my multi-cultural team makes to my company, just working with
people from all different corners of the world has truly been one
of the most enriching experiences of my life. We tell one another
stories about our customs and traditions, we bring in foods from
our home countries, we watch movies from one another's cultures,
and I think all of us have learned a great deal from one another
and we actually enjoy one another's company.
As you can imagine, this special breakfast event was an exciting
experience for us, and I'll frankly admit it that all of us were
quite nervous leading up to the event. The breakfast was a real
success and these immigrant stories really touched the audience.
So after all went well, last Saturday was a day for more celebrations.
Our entire team got together and we went on a guided tour of the
St. Lawrence Market
with Bruce Bell,
the famous Toronto historian. I had earlier gone on his tour and
raved about it, and now my team members had a chance to experience
the tour first hand.
Toronto's St. Lawrence Market
Bruce is a regular contributor
on this website and his tours are always special since Bruce conveys
not just Toronto's political past, but also its social and human
history in a very entertaining manner, combining his profound knowledge
of history with his knack for comedy and the performing arts.
We started with the St.
Lawrence Market and learned about its history and got to sample
some delicious treats from the food vendors. St. Lawrence Hall was
next on the program, and we later visited Toronto's first Post Office,
one of the few buildings still left over from before Toronto's Great
Fire of 1849. Our final stop was the famous St. James Cathedral
where we actually bumped into the Anglican Bishop of Toronto.
We then capped off our outing with a driving tour of downtown,
covering places like Old and New City Hall, Osgoode Hall, University
Avenue, the Provincial Government Buildings at Queens Park, the
University of Toronto Campus, Chinatown, Queen Street West, the
Polish area on Roncesvalles, over to High Park, and then back along
the Lakeshore to Toronto's Eastern Beaches.
Most of my team members have only been in Toronto for a relatively
short period of time (in some cases less than a year), and I got
the impression that they really enjoyed this outing, to learn more
about their new home town. We will follow this discovery up with
more tours next year where we all will get to explore our city and
the local surrounding areas.
What we really learned from Bruce was that it's only been in the
last 30 years or so that Toronto has developed into the open-minded,
tolerant and cosmopolitan metropolis that it is today. The greater
part of Toronto's history was characterized by strict societal divisions
that separated people by class, religion, ethnic and economic background,
Last week was great, we got to celebrate 15 years in business,
and a great collaboration with Skills
for Change, an organization that makes such a difference in
helping new immigrants integrate successfully, an organization so
recognized for its expertise that it has received delegations from
Sweden and Germany, to provide insight into its model of immigrant
And to cap off this special week we got to celebrate Toronto and
its history, and we all appreciated how lucky we are that we live
in this day and age where we can all enjoy the freedoms and opportunities
that surround us here in this special place.
Useful books about Toronto:
Why I love Toronto....
Toronto - viewed through
the eyes of European visitors
Toronto - A Pretty
The St. Lawrence
Market Tour with Bruce Bell
this summer with my European visitors
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