I don’t expect there will be many blog posts here.
Diversitas is currently (March 2017) just me – Peter Cantelon. I started in December 2015 after sitting around having drinks with friends. One of them – Sally Marsolais – was wishing there was an opportunity for local people to learn more about Islam and Muslims because there were a lot of misconceptions floating around.
Later I thought – “hey I can bring someone down. How hard could it be?”
It turns out not hard at all. I decided to create the semblance of an organization so that prospective speakers would at least have the comfort of knowing they were going to be speaking to a number of people on behalf of a group and not just coming down to entertain Pete Cantelon and some of his friends.
Diversitas was chosen as a simple title because it means Diversity (and it sounds smarter).
Our first speaker was Dr. Idris Elbakri, then president of the Manitoba Islamic Association. He was spectacular, disarming, humorous and deft in handling a very difficult subject in front of a diverse group of people. The event occurred one week after the Paris massacre (though it was planned months in advance) and drew nearly 200 people.
Since then Diversitas has hosted Jonathan Niemczak, president of Winnipeg Pride; Dennis White Bird, former grand chief of the Manitoba Assembly of First Nations and treaty commissioner; Dr. Clint Curle, special adviser to the president of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights; and Senator Marilou McPhedran, director of the Institute for International Women’s Studies.
We also hosted a special screening of Charlie Chaplin’s first talking picture – The Great Dictator.
The rules of Diversitas are simple. The speakers must be recognized thought leaders in the subject. They must come from outside of the Pembina Valley region (because we never listen to family members as well as to those from outside of the family and they bring a perspective from outside our local experience; there will always be a question and answer time; and the subjects must in some way focus on an aspect of human diversity.
Anyhow my goal is to incorporate as a charitable, not-for-profit to add a board so that I have a greater degree of accountability and we can issue tax receipts and seek additional funding. Also so that I can share this load with others in a more formal fashion.