The traditional Executive Director’s report in an annual report is usually a review of the past year’s successes, and what our vision will be for the coming year. However, if you will indulge me, I would like to start by sharing a little bit about myself and my family.

We first arrived in Canada on December 21, 2012. Some of you may recall, there was a widespread conspiracy theory suggesting that cataclysmic events would destroy the planet on that day – believed to be the end date of the 5,126 year Mayan calendar. Fortunately, this was not the case! Humanity did not end. In fact, for me and my family, that day marked the beginning of a new life.

We came to Canada to pursue certain freedoms denied to us in our home country. In other words, we came seeking asylum. The decision and its subsequent journey were challenging, but we weren’t alone. Thankfully, we received support from a local settlement agency. One not as big as our own CCI in Ottawa, this agency nonetheless set us up with services, guidance, and a lot of heartfelt help.  Eventually, Canada accepted our family’s asylum claim and we became permanent residents. And in November of 2021? our family became proud Canadian citizens. Life is never perfect of course, but now my family is safe, connected to a welcoming community. We have a sense of home and belonging.

I share this with you as an example of what can be achieved by any of us when we allow ourselves to dream. Today, I enjoy the privileges of freedom. But I also believe that freedom comes with responsibility. It needs to be nurtured and supported by individuals, and by our communities. This includes the community we more formally refer to as the settlement sector.

I can’t express how fortunate I feel to be a part of this sector, and to be the Executive Director of a landmark settlement agency. And to lead a team of amazing people devoted to the kind of compassionate work that gave me and my family a wonderful start to a better life.

In last year’s message, I made a point of talking about the future, and what we were doing to adapt and prepare for it. One of our goals was to improve our working space and enhance our ability to perform collaboratively, with an increased level of capacity for delivering services. We began by renovating our four floors so that CCI’s counsellors could work together more closely as a team. These renovations also allowed us to offer better and more equipped meeting spaces for workshops, activities, and other supportive services.

We have also embraced technologies such as video conferencing to add increased levels of access for our clients. We also moved to an appointment-only service which has streamlined our staff’s ability to plan their day and declutter their capacity to perform their duties. Eliminating the first come first serve model has given our staff the ability to prioritize needs, provide clients with timely services, and offer them the security of knowing precisely when they will receive the help they need. These changes have enabled CCI to serve more clients over the previous year. We were also able to assist 800 refugee claimants. We should, as a team, be proud of these accomplishments. They are evidence of our openness to improve and embrace change.

This year, I would like to submit, to our staff and supporters, an invitation to dream. Rather than adapting and changing to keep pace with the future, I want us to imagine how we can influence and be a part of it.

We renovated our building, but now it is time to renovate our vision. We need to examine our infrastructure, policies, practices, and procedures. Not only with an eye on improving but with a collective set of eyes motivated by the dream of becoming a modern, innovative settlement agency with the potential to influence the future instead of reacting to the circumstances influencing it.

Soon, we will be sharing our 2024-2028 Strategic Plan. I believe it represents goals that are good for the health of our organization, while also laying a framework for us to be aspirational and not just reactive. But if it’s going to succeed it’s going to need help. From all of you. Our staff. Partners. Funders. And government.

These days, we hear the word diversity thrown around a lot. Mostly, the conversation is about respecting diversity. As we should. But we rarely talk about the benefits of diversity. That is to say, new perspectives. New points of view. And new methods for approaching problems. Diversity is a potent ingredient in innovation. Moving forward, I want us to brew and add this ingredient to our work. I know it will help us. But I also believe that by being advocates of this narrative we can help push back against rising anti-immigration sentiments, which are the antithesis of our cause.

Our clients are diverse. Our staff is diverse. Ottawa is diverse. Imagine what we might accomplish by leveraging all of it in the service of a dream. I arrived in this country with little more than exactly that – a dream. Now, I am grateful to live and work in Canada. We are not on the edge of a cataclysm. Rather we are on the precipice of exciting opportunities. Let us embrace them by continuing to bring out the best in each other and living up to the value and importance of our work. Our clients are thankful for us. And we are thankful for them. Together, we can shape the future.