Richard Michaels has been named chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s newly formed Committee for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion. The committee will reach out to better include communities that have faced systemic marginalization due to race, ethnicity, gender, physical capabilities or other factors.
“I am proud to be the first chair of this new committee, which recognizes that the demographics of Greater Victoria are evolving and that adapting to this change is fundamental to the sustainability of our region’s economy,” said Michaels, president of MACCRIM Solutions and a member of The Chamber’s Board of Directors. “The Chamber is working to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment that engages businesses owners and entrepreneurs who reflect the full spectrum of our region. This strengthens our organization and ensures everyone in our region’s business community is represented by The Chamber.”
The purpose of the Committee for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion is to offer advice and guidance to help The Chamber create a more inclusive and welcoming business community. The mandate is part of the work the organization has been doing to achieve its vision of being “the region’s most diverse and influential business association.”
In June, The Chamber also announced the creation of an Indigenous Business Task Force to work toward reconciliation by engaging with Indigenous-owned businesses and First Nations to ensure they have access to all opportunities available to help them flourish.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we know things will not be as they were before it started,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “This is the time to take what we’ve learned from successfully adapting to challenging times and make our economy more sustainable. Good business really does build great community for all.”
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams has been named to the inaugural Canadian Chamber of Commerce BIPOC and Inclusion Council.
Diversity initiatives across the country are playing a part in creating a more socially inclusive economy. Small businesses play an important role, but often don’t know where to start.
"Chambers are experts at building connections and bringing people together," Chamber CEO Bruce Willams says. "We talk about being more inclusive and diverse, and we also need to walk the walk by hearing directly from voices and lived experiences that will guide us in making meaningful change."
The new council will inform the Canadian Chamber’s initiatives in supporting BIPOC, drive meaningful action to address the identified challenges and opportunities BIPOC face in participating in the Canadian economy, share and recognize best practices and advocate for changes that facilitate diversity and inclusion.
The Chamber has repeatedly advocated that inclusion is a key economic driver. Across Canada, improved participation rates could add 2.2 million workers to the labour force by 2040, including more women, Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities, thereby growing our economy by $101 billion.
Financial support is available for First Nations and Indigenous entrepreneurs looking to produce or process food, or other associated activities. The BC Indigenous Agriculture Development Program provides up to $8,000 for specialized planning and coaching services to help develop food and agricultural businesses.
Food security is a priority for our region, and tapping into Indigenous knowledge about sustainable production on their traditional territories can only help as we continue to face challenges due to climate events.
The program is first-come first-serve and will be available until all of the ascribed funding is allocated.
The move to Step 3 of BC's Restart Plan has renewed optimism among the many businesses that had been stifled by pandemic restrictions.
"We're gradually expanding our capacity to move a little closer to whatever normal is going to be," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CFAX's Al Ferraby. The two also discussed the need for Canada to open its border to international travellers.
Getting back to business is not without its challenges. Employers continue to struggle finding people to fill available jobs, and supply chains are still working through some of the bumps caused by extended shutdowns. The Chamber and our community partners also continue to urge the provincial government to return its workforce to downtown offices.
Williams also spoke to CFAX about The Chamber's effort to support Indigenous business and follow through on calls to action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Chamber Board recently approved the creation of a new task-force committed to listening and working alongside First Nations' businesses and Indigenous entrepreneurs. Another way we're supporting economic reconciliation is through a new membership program created for Indigenous-owned business.
The Victoria Native Friendship Centre was bequeathed a large property in the District of Oak Bay. The house, donated by 85-year-old Marion Cumming, is one of many properties donated to Indigenous groups across Canada by Cumming and her late husband Bruce.
A decision has not yet been made on how the property will be used, but ideas include using the space for board retreats or an artist in residence.
On Monday, The Chamber celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on social media, and we continue to look for new ways to support Indigenous-owned businesses in Greater Victoria.
Next week, we will announce a special initiative to help more Indigenous businesses benefit from being part of our region's business community. The Chamber is committed to being an inclusive organization and making sure we live up to our vision of being the region’s most diverse and influential business association.