Listening, learning and acting: A statement from the Victoria Foundation Board Chair

Zaman Velji is the Board Chair of the Victoria Foundation.

There is hurt and pain in our community right now. I know I am not alone in feeling grief as centuries of racism in the United States recently manifested in the murder of George Floyd by a police officer – while three other police officers watched. I know I am not alone in recognizing that Canada, despite our celebrated pluralism, has a history and a present day riddled with systemic discrimination and oppression. I know I am not alone in echoing the rallying cry that Black lives matter. And I know I am not alone in feeling called to action.

Recently, friends and colleagues have been moved to share their local experiences with racism. People who have been discriminated against insidiously or in ways shockingly overt for being Black, Indigenous, Asian, or being different in other ways. Hearing their stories, I am heartbroken. The ugly truth is that, more often than many of us realize, this is an everyday reality for many people, and our community is no exception.

The concept of community is core to the Victoria Foundation. Our vision statement is a vibrant, caring community for all. For all. Much of our work revolves around the idea of belonging, of creating a space where we find joy in our differences, and where we invest in building a society where everyone feels engaged, respected and safe.  In truth, the quest for a caring community for all does not mean an equal focus on all. It demands that we do more to support those who are most in peril, and this includes those disproportionately impacted by systemic racism in our country.

Right now, the Foundation is listening. Our Foundation will do more, by listening, learning, and acting. This moment calls on us to challenge ourselves to face hard truths and foster the change needed for our community to live up to the pride we take in it. That includes amplifying the voices of those already engaged in this work, like our partners at The Inclusion Project, a social innovation network supporting equity, diversity and inclusion, or the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, which was recently selected to serve as the provincial hub for the Resilience B.C. Anti-Racism Network. Our journey ahead includes engaging with our philanthropic community to be more deliberate in meaningfully supporting organizations working to address systemic racism and equity in our communities.

This work won’t always be easy – easy is deferring to the status quo. But collectively we know that the status quo is not working. The Victoria Foundation is committed to listening, learning and acting to do better on this issue both within our own organization and out in the community. We invite you to share your thoughts, experiences and ideas with us. Let’s work together to create a vibrant, caring community for all.

Zaman Velji is the Board Chair of the Victoria Foundation.