Blog

What belonging, diversity, and inclusion mean to me

By John Guido

Garrett Sinclair is a man with something to say. He’s also a man with an intellectual disability. He hasn’t always felt that people respect him enough to listen. “I didn’t like the way people were treating me.” But with the support of family and friends, Garrett has found the courage to speak up.

In September 2018, Garrett was a delegate to the L’Arche Canada General Assembly in Halifax. It was his first time at this large gathering of hundreds of L’Arche members and leaders with and without intellectual disabilities. In fact, it was the first time that delegates from the new L’Arche Fredericton project participated in a L’Arche Canada Assembly.

Above: Garrett enjoying the fiesta at the L’Arche Canada General Assembly

 
At first, Garrett found the gathering a little disappointing. He liked meeting people from all over Canada, but with all the Assembly business and celebrations, when would he have the chance to have his voice heard? Then Garrett took the time to head into “the studio” set up so delegates could share their thoughts on the themes chosen to Celebrate the Gift of 50 years of L’Arche in Canada. Under the lights, with a large microphone before him, the camera operator and interviewer giving him their full attention, Garrett finally felt that he was heard.

Garrett Sinclair

 
The Halifax studio was set up to meet a goal of the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and L’Arche in Canada. “Throughout this 50th year, L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, on what we are learning within L’Arche and with our partners that promotes the vision and practice of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.” We will do this in a variety of ways, yet we want to begin by listening to our members with and without intellectual disabilities.

Over the next six months, we will share some of what we heard in the Halifax studio through short clips on social media. We hope that these clips will be ‘conversation starters’ that get people thinking and talking about their own experience of relationships and belonging in community; about discovering and developing their unique voice and gifts; and about what happens when people who have been excluded from public spaces – such as persons with intellectual disabilities – take their place and contribute their ideas, gifts, and abilities.

In addition, we have chosen a few testimonies – including one by Garrett – to take a step further in that conversation. These longer clips will be incorporated into the Values campaign that L’Arche Canada launched with partners in 2017. The goal of this campaign is Listening to and amplifying the voices of marginalized people. “We believe that it’s not up to us to empower them, yet when they are listened to, their voices have power. We have the responsibility to transmit their voices publicly so that their lived experience, ideas, and learning contribute to the process of global social reflection and action for change.”

 
The image of the microphone reminds us of the power of the studio space (like the photo shoot space in Mon Ami Gil) in our culture as a space of inclusion. It was powerful to watch each person take the risk to sit centre stage, to be seen fully and share what is important to them. Most of the participants seemed to blossom under the lights and in front of the microphone. They were not looking for fame, but for us to pay attention to what they have to say, to value their contribution and share it with others.

In the studio, we asked each person to reflect on the gift of relationships and belonging; of developing their unique gifts and living with difference; and of people once marginalized helping build their communities. What we quickly realized is that these themes cannot be spoken of separately – they are deeply interwoven strands of what it means to be human. We hope that these reflections will be the beginning of real dialogue in your homes, workplaces and communities, as well as on-line, as more people take their place and contribute their gifts and voices.

 


Taking our place in the inclusion movement

It is an important time for the accessibility and inclusion movement in Canada and the world, and L’Arche Canada is developing our capacity to take our place.

Jean Vanier: Remembering an Icon, Not an Idol

Jean was uncomfortable (being called a saint) if a saint was a model of inaccessible perfection alone on a pedestal, but if the word was used as a member of the Christian community, he was happy to be part of the community of saints, living and dead.

Silent encounter with the “man who repairs women”

Denis Mukwege begs us empathetically to remain attentive, to listen deeply to what is inherent in our human condition: our sensitivity and vulnerability.

Companions on the Journey: Part Two

The road of transformation has its breakthrough moments, yet it takes many twists and turns along the way. That’s why we need to nourish ourselves and the fellowship we share.

Companions on the Journey: Part One

John and Greg talk about how their friendship took root and has grown through mutual support for over thirty years.

Creative Connections

Creative Connections is a space for making art with persons with intellectual disabilities. It promotes belonging, diversity, and inclusion while extending the impact of L’Arche in the city of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Continuing the Journey in Unity and Hope

With people around the world, the family of L’Arche mourned the death and celebrated the life of our founder, Jean Vanier. We are called to stay on his path.

L’Arche Joliette’s Zoom Media

This team of creators, designers and technicians offers full sound, image and video services to make their collaborators shine!

The important work of the Vanier Institute of the Family is a call to L’Arche

Today, L’Arche’s relationship with families is changing as we support more persons with disabilities living with their families and welcome them and their family members into our community life.

Sage and Time

Making community art unleashes creativity and builds bridges between seniors and the wider Sudbury community.

Inclusion Begins With Me

A conference on inclusion organized by L’Arche Agapè was an occasion to deepen understanding and recognize that “change will be achieved by breaking down barriers and creating awareness among people”.

Birds Make Me Think About Freedom

A play inspired by the stories of persons institutionalized for having intellectual disabilities, their families, and friends.

Journey to the Greatest Gift

In a Gala celebration, L’Arche Daybreak celebrated 50 years of creating the Beloved Community, discovering the sacred in the ordinary stuff of daily life – albeit with magic and space travel thrown in.

From Presence to Citizenship to Community

In order to promote meaningful inclusion, we need to build communities that welcome the gifts and contributions of all their members.

Give People their Place

As we celebrate the 50th of L’Arche in Canada, we’re amplifying the voices of persons with lived experience, sharing insights on creating belonging, diversity and inclusion in Canada.

Building a model of Inclusive Housing in Elmira, Ontario

Over the past decade, L’Arche has been connecting with the Elmira Developmental Support Corporation to learn how they are building “supportive affordable housing” for persons with intellectual disabilities, and to share our vision and experience.

Building Community through Art Discovering our Creative Potential

Hearts and Hands, the creative arts space of L’Arche Antigonish, is promoting creative expression, belonging, and inclusion in Nova Scotia through community arts.

Building Inclusive Housing

Innovative housing options that promote choice, autonomy, and inclusion are changing the landscape of disability supports in Canada and offer L’Arche an opportunity for greater impact.

What belonging, diversity, and inclusion mean to me

L’Arche Canada is launching an online reflection to Celebrate the Gift of belonging, diversity, and inclusion by listening to the voices of persons with lived-experience and those who share life with them.

An Innovative Model of Life-Sharing in the Comox Valley

Innovative housing options that promote choice, autonomy, and inclusion are changing the landscape of disability supports in Canada. The Vanier Suites of L’Arche Comox Valley are a new model of shared living renewing the vision of L’Arche.

Presenting… Ross!

Now we’re delighted to introduce you to Ross Moncrieff, the second of the two individuals with intellectual disabilities selected for a session with a professional photographer.

Measuring Impact in the Movement for Inclusion

L’Arche delegates reflect on their experience and learning from the December 3rd Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion titled “What Gets Measured Gets Done.”

“Painting is the song of the heart”

This artwork embodies the innate human desire to create a personal, physical mark which holds our fragile identity in the strength of an intentional creative gesture.

Presenting… Tiana!

Our friend Gil invited us to think about the importance of being “in the camera,” and inspired us to invite others to take their turn. We are delighted to introduce you to Tiana!

Community arts create a world where everyone is valued and belongs

The community arts movement and organizations like Art Hives build stronger communities and a more human society. L’Arche celebrates the unique gifts of artists and the community creative spaces where they thrive.

Celebrate the Gift

In October 2019, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and of L’Arche In Canada. We will take time in the next 12 months to share our stories in many creative ways. L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, celebrating the gifts of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

L’Arche Tova Café promotes Belonging and Inclusion in Winnipeg

Social purpose businesses or enterprises focused on food and hospitality are vibrant and innovative ways to promote belonging and inclusion. For over 6 years, L’Arche Tova Café has led the way not only for the city of Winnipeg, but also for L’Arche in Canada.

Storytelling “with”

L’Arche storytelling puts belonging, diversity, and inclusion at the centre to help us “imagine the world differently.”

Where is happiness, where is it…?

Happiness is a trendy topic. There are as many definitions of happiness as there are individuals, yet never has a civilization developed such precise models and ideas of what happiness should be.

Institutional life – a bit of context

Raphael Amato offers some background on the role of institutions in the 20th century

Listening to and amplifying the voices of marginalized people

Each message pays tribute first to a person’s story, highlighting and sharing the richness and diversity of these heartfelt testimonies.

L’Arche International Family Day

The first Saturday of October is L’Arche International Family Day. Discover the gift of L’Arche around the world and celebrate our solidarity with one another.

Setting our course for the next 50 years

Looking forward to an era where L’Arche people with and without disabilities join with others of like spirit to advocate and change society – making it more inclusive for everyone.

L’Arche London’s Gathering Place

One example of the increased impact L’Arche communities are having across Canada

Celebrating Jean Vanier at 90

Jean Vanier is 90. L’Arche in Canada extends sincere gratitude and best wishes to our founder, guide, and companion in the journey, our friend Jean.

Investing in Justice for Institutional Survivors

Patricia Seth, an institutional survivor, put it this way, “It was like living in a prison. The only thing is, we didn't know when we would even get out.” Inspired by the founding story of L’Arche, L’Arche in Ontario is engaging in Investing in Justice, a series of projects promoting healing and belonging, truth and reconciliation for survivors.

L’Arche Montérégie Art Workshop “Le Pot-en-ciel”

Le Pot-en-ciel is an art workshop that would not be if it weren’t for one member of L’Arche Montérégie who dreamed of a place where he and fellow artists could draw and paint together in a spirit of sharing and mutual teaching. Photography by Jonathan Boulet-Groulx.

Summer in the Forest: One L’Arche Perspective

Summer in the Forest is an extraordinary film – a feature-length documentary by British filmmaker Randal Wright beautifully shot and scored. The subjects of the film are Jean Vanier and several members of his community of L’Arche Trosly in France and of the L’Arche community in Bethlehem. (Vanier speaks in English with dialogue in French and Arabic with English subtitles.)

Holocaust Education Week: Remembering Aktion T4, the Nazi Euthanasia Program

A few years ago, I went with Mel Kirzner, a man with an intellectual disability who welcomed me to L’Arche in 1985, to visit the Maxwell and Ruth Leroy Holocaust Remembrance Garden at the Reena Community Residence in Vaughan.

Social Inclusion Cannot Exist without True Community and Friendship

L’Arche Canada is participating in a series of round tables on the theme of “Living Together” – sharing life with and including persons who are vulnerable and marginalized in the heart of our communities.

L’Arche Canada’s monthly e-mail review of news, stories, and commentary about what is happening in L’Arche, with our partners, and within Canadian society.