As we come to the end of our graduate seminar on social inclusion, I want to first thank the Laidlaw Foundation and the Canadian Council on Social Development for bringing us together over the last two days and making us feel included. But, most of all, I want to thank you, the participants.
Unlike Wayne Helgason, our self-proclaimed risk-taker, I have always ‘played it safe.’ Yesterday morning when I first spoke to you, I posed a number of questions about whether or not the concepts of social exclusion and social inclusion did, in fact, represent a ‘new way of thinking.’ As such, I positioned myself safely ‘on the fence.’ Now, as we come to the end of our discussions, I have made up my mind (or you have pushed me off the fence). I have seen the light. I do believe that social inclusion does provide us with a new lens with which we can better focus our thinking and, in doing so, it reinforces our commitments to well-established goals of justice and fairness and equity while, at the same time, shedding light on what is really at stake when we fail to make a place for all in our community.
I started to climb down off the fence early on when some of you spoke in very concrete terms about experiences of exclusion and how those experiences have shaped identities, relationships and prospects. For whatever reason, your conversations brought back to my mind the title of a biography about the lives and thoughts of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. It was called Hearts and Minds. I would suggest that our hearts have been touched in such a way as to remind us all of why we need to exercise our minds as we search for a ‘new way of thinking.’ My heart has been captured by stories that reminded us that those who are poor struggle to get by ‘day-by-day’ and cannot look forward with hope to a future worth living. I have been forced to confront the realization that communities are built in two ways: by inviting people in and by keeping others out. I have been reminded that ‘belonging’ is a simple word that ‘conjures up our deepest yearnings and, for some of us, our most painful memories.”
During our search, we have come to understand better what we mean by the term inclusion and its various dimensions. We know that income is part of the story but it is not the entire story. We know that ramps to ensure that all may enter the building are important and necessary first steps but that the journey toward inclusion really only begins once we have entered the doorway. We know that the concept of inclusion is different from integration and social cohesion. We know that our task is ambitious and we will not achieve our goals by simply setting up a new bureaucracy to oversee social inclusion research.
We have come to understand who has been historically excluded as we have talked of populations and groups at risk. We have also, I think, begun to understand better than we did what is at stake not just for those who have borne the pain and anguish of exclusion but for all of us who stand to benefit from the contributions that each and every person can make.
We have come to understand that individuals have been excluded from:
It was suggested to me that when we arrived at this conference, we did not know what we would hear and what we say to one another. Right off the bat, this seemed to distinguish this meeting of ‘hearts and minds’ from so many of the other meetings that we who “traffic in the conceptual” often attend. We have, I believe, taken a big step forward even if we have also expressed our doubts and hesitations about whether or not this new language of analysis can also serve as a foundation for action and a new politics of inclusion. Doubt is, I remember from Descartes a good thing. Whenever we recall his famous dictum: “I think therefore I am,” we forget that he said something else too. Dubito, cogito, ergo sum. I doubt, I think, therefore I am. We may still have our doubts but I know that we are now thinking in new and fresh ways.
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