Canadian Voices and Ideas Driving International Forum on Inclusion

BERLIN - On Tuesday, at 6 Degrees, the global forum for inclusion, participants and speakers from over 30 countries gathered in Berlin to explore the questions of identity, citizenship, and polarization that are at the forefront of a divided political and social landscape.

Driving that conversation was the Canadian idea of inclusion, notably different from the term "integration" often used in Europe. The Canadian ideals of inclusive societies where people can maintain multiple cultural identities inspired the diverse international audience.

Canadian essayist and philosopher, John Ralston Saul, set the tone from the beginning saying, "Interesting societies have tension in them. It is a fool's paradise to believe that social cohesion means we are all the same. But positive tension can be a building force."

6 Degrees' aim for the Berlin event has been to come up with ideas to empower citizens and organizations to activate positive change in policy, workplaces, communities, and in public attitudes. In order to shift attitudes, "there is a need for a new narrative on inclusion, a narrative that takes the idea that integration is a necessity and reframes it to show active inclusion as a benefit. We must tell the stories of the value and contributions that newcomers bring to their new homes," said Wadah Khanfar, former director general of Al Jazeera and current Chairman of the Common Action Forum.

Hosted by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, the forum brought together speakers and audience from all sectors – arts, civil society, academia, government, activism, and business – to break down silos and build collective solutions to the challenges of divided political and social systems.

"6 Degrees is an extraordinary experiment in building inclusive societies. If you can't talk about barrier and exclusion – you can't change them," reflected Sally Armstrong, Canadian author, journalist, and 2019 Massey Lecturer.

The international lineup of speakers included: Stephane Dion, Ambassador of Canada to Germany and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sawsan Chebli, State of Berlin Delegate to the Federation, Permanent Secretary for Active Citizenship and International Relations; Georgios Kaminis, former mayor of Athens, Greece; special envoy for Mayors Migration Council and C40 Cities; Canadian journalists Doug Saunders and Elizabeth Renzetti.