Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2019):
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 28, 2019)
Here are some of the reasons why York, Regional Municipality of was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2019):
- York Region developed a Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Charter, which will be used as a roadmap to create an organization that is inclusive of employees and customers alike -- the initiative is being developed in collaboration with 20 local partner organizations, as well as the Region's diversity and inclusion staff committee
- York Region maintains a dedicated Newcomer Strategy to focus on both economic and social integration of newcomers -- as part of the strategy, the organization hosted its third Internationally Educated Professionals conference to connect the government, professional associations, employers, entrepreneurs and newcomers
- Additionally, York Region works with a number of community partners to support the employment efforts of new Canadian job-seekers, including the Welcome Centre Immigrant Services, Professional Access and Integration Enhancement Program, COSTI Immigrant Services and Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council
York Region's charter sets an example for the world
Sharon Kennedy felt tremendous pride when The Regional Municipality of York received an award last November for an employee campaign to promote inclusion and diversity.
The campaign, called "I Am Different Like You," aims to start a conversation about what it means to be inclusive and work toward a common vision of diversity among York Region staff and community members.
As Executive Director of Human Resources, Kennedy is part of the senior management team whose top-down initiatives have distinguished York Region as a global leader in its commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.
With more than 1 million residents spread over 1,762 sq km north of Toronto, York Region encompasses nine cities and towns and is the third-largest census division in Ontario. Almost a quarter of the population is Chinese, while another 25 percent of residents identify their heritage as Indian, Russian, German, Iranian, Polish and Sri Lankan.
Last June, the Region formally adopted an Inclusion Charter that has been recognized by the United Nations as a leading practice model that communities around the world could use to become more inclusive.
The Inclusion Charter was developed by the Municipal Diversity and Inclusion Group, co-chaired by York Region and York Regional Police, which includes municipalities, police services, hospitals, school boards, conservation authorities and agencies with a common commitment to welcoming and inclusive communities.
"Inclusion and diversity are corporate competencies," says Aisha Saintiche, Strategic Project Advisor at the Region, who works on an initiative called Mental Health Matters. "They include mental health and accessibility, and they provide purpose to all the work we do."
An employee of the Region since 2008, Saintiche has worked for more than two years to incorporate awareness of mental health-related issues into the culture of the organization so that employees feel supported and so they can also better meet the needs of the communities they serve.
"Mental health is an issue that arises in all areas, from housing to daycare to employment," says Saintiche, who moved into her current job in 2017.
York Region's emergency medical services personnel are also incorporating mental-health awareness into their culture to deliver services with a focus on early intervention, prevention and effective responses to crisis.
In addition to promoting positive mental health, York Region offers its employees a comprehensive employee wellness program that includes a mobile-friendly and interactive employee wellness website where they can track healthy behaviours like physical activity, a good night's sleep and proper nutrition, view an online video library of modules on topics related to family, physical and mental health and finances, and try out an online behaviour modification program supporting nutritional wellness.
"Our commitment to employee wellness and an inclusion culture enhances our ongoing work to attract and retain the best talent, promote innovation and provide an excellent customer experience," says Kennedy.
York Region also encourages employees to advance through the organization. "With seven unique departments and more than 70 per cent of our hiring managed internally, we give our employees first chance to grow when opportunities present themselves," says Kennedy.
Aisha Saintiche joined the Region's staff as a Senior Program Analyst, with a degree in political science from Concordia University in Montreal and six years of experience as a child advocate worker.
Since then, with support and encouragement from her managers, Saintiche has added a master's degree in public policy administration from York University and a certificate in change management to her qualifications.
"York Region offers lots of programs for staff in areas like leadership, emotional intelligence, coaching fundamentals and solution-focused communication," she says. "Compared to who I was when I started, I'm now a very different person in terms of the skills that I bring to the table."